Is Palestinian leader Abbas a shrewd negotiator, or an obstacle to peace? Latest headlines raise questions.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (Photo by AP)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. (Photo by AP)

(Washington, D.C.) — We all want to see peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. The question is: How do we get there?

As President Obama meets today with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in California, it is believed that much of their focus will be how to persuade Israel’s leaders to make deeper concessions to the Palestinians by the end of April, and then deeper-still concessions to conclude a comprehensive final peace treaty by the end of 2014.

But one of the challenges the President and His Majesty need to wrestle with is the refusal of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to make serious concessions.

Is Abbas merely playing the shrewd negotiator, repeatedly saying “no” in hopes of extracting further Israeli concessions?

Or does Abbas not want to ever make serious concessions, hoping instead that the U.S., the E.U., and the rest of the world force Israel to make far deeper concessions or risk having Israel be blamed for the breakdown of the talks, thus triggering a wave of international boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (giving a victory to the “BDS” movement)?

Put another way, is Abbas the “key to peace,” or an obstacle to peace? There are plenty of analysts on each side of that divide. We may actually find out the answer soon, but as we pray for peace, let us pray faithfully for the Palestinian leadership.

In the meantime, it’s worth reading the latest story from the region:

“The Palestinian Authority has informed US Secretary of State John Kerry that it will not accept his framework peace proposal as it currently stands,” reports the Times of Israel. PA officials who spoke to the Times “claimed that the Obama administration’s current proposal, which is intended to serve as the basis for continued talks on a two-state solution, includes pretty much everything Israel demanded — almost down to the last detail — but does not address vital requirements from the Palestinian side.

“Israeli officials have voiced numerous objections of their own to the reported terms, with Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon quoted as describing the security aspect of the document, for instance, as ‘not worth the paper it’s printed on,'” noted the Times. “The Palestinian officials detailed to The Times of Israel what they said were the main clauses of the framework proposal. Peace talks resumed last July and are due to end in April unless Kerry can persuade the two sides to continue negotiations. Israeli officials have indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is inclined to accept the framework terms, on the basis that they are non-binding and that he can express objections to them, though this has not been confirmed. Netanyahu is to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington on March 3.”

According to the Times, “central clauses of the framework deal as presented by Kerry, and rejected by the PA, the Palestinian officials said, are as follows”:

  • Borders: The peace agreement is to be based on pre-1967 lines, but will take into consideration changes on the ground in the decades since.
  • Settlements: There will be no massive evacuation of “residents.”
  • Refugees: Palestinian refugees will be able to return to Palestine or remain where they currently live. In addition, it is possible that a limited number of refugees could be allowed into pre-1967 Israel as a humanitarian gesture, and only with Israeli acquiescence. Nowhere is it written that Israel bears responsibility for suffering caused to the refugees.
  • Capital: The Palestinian capital will be in Jerusalem.
  • Security: Israel has the right to defend itself, by itself.
  • The Jordan Valley: The IDF will retain a presence in the Jordan Valley. The length of time the IDF will remain will depend on the abilities of the Palestinian security forces.
  • Border crossings: Israel will continue to control border crossings into Jordan.
  • Definition of the countries: Two states will result, “a national state of the Jewish people and a national state of the Palestinian people.”

To read more details about Palestinian objections to the “framework agreement,” please click here.

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