April 2, 2014
Over the last nine months, Israelis and Palestinians have been engaged in peace negotiations coordinated by Secretary of State John Kerry. As part of the peace negotiation framework, set to expire April 29, 2014, Israel agreed to release 104 convicted terrorists in four stages and the Palestinians agreed to delay seeking any additional recognition by the United Nations and other international authorities.
Yesterday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he has signed applications for 15 United Nations agencies and conventions. In response, John Kerry canceled a meeting with Abbas and the future of the peace process has been thrown into jeopardy. One of the applications signed was for the Geneva Convention, an action which could strengthen the Palestinians’ ability to petition the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel. In 2012—prior to receiving non-member observer state status—the Palestinian Authority unsuccessfully petitioned the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel and many expect further petitions if peace negotiations dissolve.
Unilateral Palestinian actions—aimed at avoiding dialogue and delegitimizing Israel—jeopardize the potential for peace. Hadassah unequivocally affirms that the only step forward for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is direct, bilateral negotiations without pre-conditions.
In recent weeks, negotiations faltered when the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League vocally rejected the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, an essential provision for Israel to accept a final peace agreement. With the framework deadline approaching and prospects for extension unclear, Israel delayed the last stage release of Palestinian prisoners until peace talks were certain to continue.
Prior to Abbas’ announcement, it was reported that Israel proposed the release of the remaining 26 prisoners (including 14 Arab-Israeli citizens), the staged-release of an additional 400 prisoners, and a building freeze in the West Bank. In exchange, the Palestinian Authority would agree to extend negotiations into 2015 and refrain from seeking additional recognition at United Nations. The United States is reportedly also negotiating with Israel about the potential to release Jonathan Pollard, a former American intelligence officer who has served 27 years for passing classified documents to Israel, as an additional incentive for the deal.
Hadassah has long been an advocate for Pollard’s release on humanitarian grounds and commends Pollard for his previous refusals to link his release to that of Palestinian prisoners. Pollard refused to attend a parole hearing scheduled for yesterday, but his reasons are unknown.
Today, the Arab League called an emergency meeting to discuss the unreleased Palestinian prisoners and the floundering talks. A U.S. State Department spokesman announced that “neither party has given any indication ... that they want to end the negotiations,” but next steps remain unclear.
Hadassah has welcomed the efforts of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States, and the international community to pursue negotiations, and urges all parties to remain committed to the process. Hadassah is hopeful for a future of stability in the region and a peaceful fulfillment of a two-state solution.
Hadassah will continue to follow these developments and will provide additional updates when they become available.
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Date: 4/2/2014 12:00:00 AM