Palestinian Prime Minister Says Ready for Direct Talks, Partially Disarmed State
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told the Mideast Quartet – the four international entities negotiating peace between Israel and the Palestinians including the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia – that it is prepared to resume negotiations from the point at which former Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts ran out of steam in 2014 during the Obama Administration. Shtayyeh’s message to the Quartet was an addition to the Palestinian response to US President Donald Trump’s “vision for peace,” and was the first indication of the PA’s willingness to speak directly with the Israelis. Many see it as a last-ditch attempt to forestall Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex territory Israel conquered in the 1967 war because Shtayyeh warned that the offer would be rescinded if Israel were to proceed with its annexation plans. In sharp contrast to previous US presidents, President Trump has shown support for Jerusalem to proceed. But as July 1 nears, the entire matter has become one of the most politically charged issues in recent memory. In Israel, disagreement between parties to the unity government threatens the coalition’s survival while in the United States, officials known for their longtime support of the Jewish state are taking public stands against the plan. The White House is perceived to have backed away from its greenlighting of the annexation plans at least until after the November presidential election. Many supporters of President Trump see the issue as potentially toxic with no upside and are arguing for it to be postponed or canceled. At any rate, it seems highly unlikely that the plan will meet its July 1 target date while its Israeli and American advocates scurry to set a new course.