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News Analysis: Abbas sends positive message to Israel, major obstacles for peace remain

English.news.cn   2014-02-20 14:33:54

JERUSALEM, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas made unusually positive remarks over Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees earlier this week in his speech to Israeli students in Ramallah.

Abbas, who in the past insisted that Jerusalem be the capital of a future Palestinian state, told the students that there is no need to divide the city or to flood Israel with Palestinian refugees.

The future of Jerusalem and what would become of the Palestinians who left or fled when Israel was established have for long been two of the most sensitive and core issues since the peace process was launched in 1990s.

His statement came when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has seemed to meet difficulties in trying to get the Palestinian and Israelis to agree a framework, which is expected to lead to the signing of a final peace deal.

Last year Kerry announced that he aimed to have an initial framework in place by April 2014, but with the deadline approaching there are still a lot of issues for the three sides to deal with.

Analysts told Xinhua on Wednesday that Kerry would have to tap all the talent available in his team to find a compromise acceptable to all sides, including U.S. President Barack Obama.

Although Abbas did show flexibility on the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees, he still rejected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demand of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu also opposed any division of Jerusalem, which he referred to as Israel's eternal and indivisible capital.

STAYING ON MESSAGE

Abbas has been accused of changing his message to fit the audience. He becomes more pragmatic when he talks to an Israeli and Western audience.

However, Professor Menachem Klein of the Bar-Ilan University told Xinhua Wednesday that what the students heard was out of "the real Abbas."

Klein said that Abbas is in favor of a two-state solution, and not to divide Jerusalem does not mean it should be under Israeli sovereignty. Rather, it represents Abbas' consistence that Palestine will be civilly sovereign over east Jerusalem and the Israeli settlements around Jerusalem will be part of its territorial swap. But the principle of an open city is something he has spoken for years.

STATE OF PEACE PROCESS

U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk recently suggested an Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley and borders, which Klein thought would leave about 20 percent of Israeli settlers under Palestinian control. This should be seen as a "a trial balloon in order to check whether his ideas are in principle accepted by the leaders and the public."

However, after both sides expressed their reservations against the proposal, the American team is expected to reassess the proposal and try to find a new version, Klein predicted.

"The reservations of the sides will be outside the framework and this is a failure, they want all of the reservations to be inside the framework, therefore they must expand the framework to be inclusive and not exclusive," Klein said.

Dr. Mark Heller of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv noted that it's very hard to know where the process actually stands, as one of Kerry's hallmarks has been back channel diplomacy with no official statements released since the peace talks resumed last year.

"The job of diplomats is to make some certain kind of ambiguity," Heller said.

With neither inside knowledge nor concrete evidence of any kind of formal announcements, Heller said that "the only thing you can rely on is indirect evidence, meaning that people who oppose these concessions are getting very nervous, maybe they know something."

Heller added that while Kerry isn't about to announce that he has failed and given up, he would at some point search for additional backing, such as the upcoming meeting between Netanyahu and Obama on March 3. So far no meeting between Abbas and Obama has been announced.

Editor: Shen Qing
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