Abbas

John Kerry and Mahmoud Abbas to talk peace this week. (Photo: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

This is a week that saw 26 Palestinian prisoners released from Israeli jails as a precondition for ongoing peace talks, yet the fragile negotiations are continuing under constant threat.  While speculation regarding settlement expansion in Judea and Samaria drew criticism from PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, both Israel’s right and left wing put forth conflicting bill proposals in an effort to influence the outcome of any future peace agreement.

On Tuesday night, Abbas compared Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, as well as building in East Jerusalem, a “cancer.”

“We will not remain patient as the settlement cancer spreads, especially in Jerusalem, and we will use our right as a UN observer state by taking political, diplomatic and legal action to stop it,” Abbas said during a speech in honor of the forty-ninth anniversary of the founding of the Fatah party, according to AFP.

Last week, when reports of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alleged plan to announce new building in the area began to spread, Abbas met with US envoy Martin Indyk and “asked for US intervention to stop the Israeli government from issuing new settlement decisions in order to save the peace process and the American efforts,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

The PA will “no longer remain committed to not joining international organizations,” including the International Criminal Court (ICC), “if Israel goes ahead with any building announcements”, Erekat said last week, according to the Palestinian Wafa news agency.  No such announcements have been made as yet.

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Meanwhile, a bill proposal was approved early this week by the Ministerial Legislative Committee to annex the Jordan Valley, effectively taking the area off the negotiating table.  Opponents of the bill appealed immediately, meaning the bill is unlikely to pass.  However, a counter-proposal, which would prevent the annexation of any part of Judea and Samaria without a peace agreement, was proposed by MK Hilik Bar (Labor) and the Opposition, and supported by Labor MKs and some from Shas and Meretz.

The bill, a variation on one proposed by Bar in July, reads:

“The final status of the territory will be determined only in the framework of an agreement that arranges ‘two states for two peoples’ between the State of Israel and the formal representatives of the Palestinian Authority… The State of Israel shall not apply its sovereignty unilaterally to lands in the territory, except in such an agreement.”  The territory in question is defined elsewhere in the bill as Judea and Samaria, as well as the Gaza Strip, but not Jerusalem.

It should be noted that Bar’s bill is also unlikely to pass.