Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas meets with U.S. President Barack Obama. He demands that more prisoners “will be released by the 29th of March.” The same day, a Palestinian prisoner who was freed by Israel in a similar agreement was arrested for planning a terror attack.

A week after telling Palestinian students that “we shall never agree to recognize a Jewish state,” Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was in Washington meeting with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. When pressed about the issue, Abbas stated that it was resolved over 20 years ago.

“In 1993, we recognized the State of Israel,” he said, referring to a statement made by his predecessor, Yasser Arafat.

That was not enough to satisfy the Israeli leadership. Pressing the Palestinian leader to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Netanyahu had set this as a “minimal requirement for peace.” 

Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor Naftali Bennett has called the entire peace process into question. “Whoever is unwilling to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people is not a partner in dialogue,” he said.

Calling Israeli demands for Palestinian recognition a mistake, the U.S. is eager to go ahead with current negotiations.

On a recent visit to Israel, British Prime Minister David Cameron also insisted that the Palestinian leader recognize Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish People.

Israeli Leaders Protest Forthcoming Prisoner Release

As the Palestinian leader was making his demands in Washington, a terrorist was arrested at an Israeli checkpoint carrying a concealed weapon. He admitted to authorities that he was planning a stabbing attack on Israeli civilians. It was discovered that he had served three years for opening fire on a local Jewish community and was included in an early prisoner release as part of a deal to free kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israeli leaders have expressed their outrage at the prospect a new prisoner release.

“Such gestures did not lead to any progress with the Palestinians until now, but did increase acts of terror,” argues Deputy Education Minister Avraham Wortzman. “Another round of prisoner releases would be much more dangerous than its predecessors, because prisoners who live in Israel are set to be included. It would only encourage more Israeli Arabs to follow the example of these terrorists, who would be considered heroes.”

Time is Running Out for Kerry Initiative

The Palestinian leader’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish homeland coupled with Israeli opposition to releasing terrorists has brought the current round of talks to the brink of collapse. The deadline for current negotiations is the end of April. Kerry is reportedly doubling his efforts to present his framework paper before March 29 to ensure that the terrorists will be released and talks can continue.

In Washington, Abbas sounded pessimistic. “Time is not on our side, especially given the very difficult situation that the Middle East is experiencing and the entire region is facing,” he declared.

In a bid to support Kerry’s efforts, the European Union is offering incentives to both sides.

“We want this to create huge opportunities in transport, energy, water, environment … business to business contacts,” added EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton. “We want to see progressive market integration, trade and investment facilitation.”

Author: David Fink, Contributor, United with Israel
Date: Mar. 18, 2014