Israeli, Palestinian Envoys Meet in Jordan on Peace Prospects

January 3, 2012

By Jonathan Ferziger

Jan. 3 (Bloomberg) — Israeli and Palestinian negotiators meet in Jordan for the first time in more than a year today to determine whether there is hope of reviving the Middle East peace process.

The meeting in Amman between Israel’s Yitzhak Molcho and the longtime Palestinian representative, Saeb Erakat, was put together by members of the so-called Quartet, which comprises the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. King Abdullah of Jordan is pushing for a breakthrough, stepping into a role played previously by Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak.

Working against the resumption of peace talks is a rapprochement between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party and the Islamic Hamas movement, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the EU. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he won’t negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas.

“There is a lot of negative baggage between the two sides so I wouldn’t be very optimistic,” said Benadetta Berti, a research fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.

Abbas says he won’t return to peace talks, which broke down in September 2010, unless Israel freezes all settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, a condition Netanyahu rejects.

Hamas Opposition

Hamas condemned the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to meet with Israeli officials in Jordan.

“These meetings are a repetition of a track that has failed over the past years,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said yesterday in an e-mailed statement to reporters in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas ousted forces loyal to Abbas’s Fatah faction from Gaza in 2007 to gain full control of the Palestinian enclave after winning parliamentary elections the year before. Hamas and Fatah are holding reconciliation talks in an effort to form a unity government ahead of new Palestinian elections.

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