BBC News | 1 October 2010 | 10:21 GMT
- 62% under full Israeli control. This area contains all Israeli settlements, roads used by settlers, buffer zones and almost all of the Jordan Valley
- 38% under Palestinian civil control. In more than half of this, Israel has security control
- There are 149 settlements and 100 outposts (settlements not authorised by Israel)
- Population: 2.4 million Palestinians, 500,000 Jewish or Israeli settlers
U.S. and European diplomats are continuing efforts to salvage the Middle East peace talks. EU foreign policy chief, Baroness Ashton, has met Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad in the West Bank, and is heading to Jerusalem to meet Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. US envoy George Mitchell was scheduled to make the reverse journey.
The Palestinians say they will quit the talks unless Israel extends its partial freeze on settlement building. Mr Netanyahu has said that his right-wing coalition could fracture if the construction freeze, which expired on Sunday, is extended.
Direct peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinian were resumed in Washington in September after a 20-month hiatus. The US administration has given them strong backing, but has not been able to persuade the Israeli government to extend its partial moratorium on settlement building.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Middle East war of 1967, settling some 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements, which are held to be illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. About 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank. Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip and is not taking part in the talks with Israel, has urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw from them.
Mr Mitchell and Mr Abbas had held two hours of talks in Ramallah on Thursday. "We are determined to continue our efforts to find common ground between the parties to enable the direct negotiations to continue," he said afterwards.
BBC News | 30 August 2010 | 06:59 GMT
A senior rabbi from a party within Israel’s coalition government has called for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to "vanish from our world". Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of Shas, spoke out as Middle East talks are poised to begin in Washington. The United States condemned the remarks as "deeply offensive". Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from the comments with a statement saying that his government wanted peace with the Palestinians. The attack on Mr Abbas, delivered in the rabbi’s weekly sermon, also prompted chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat to condemn the remarks as "an incitement to genocide". Mr Erakat urged the Israeli government "to do more about peace and stop spreading hatred", the AFP news agency reported.
‘Regret and condemn’
Rabbi Yosef expressed the wish that "all the nasty people who hate Israel, like Abu Mazen (Abbas), vanish from our world". He went on to say: "May God strike them down with the plague along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel." The remarks come as Mr Netanyahu is due in Washington this week for direct peace talks with Mr Abbas. US President Barack Obama hopes to bring the leaders together on Thursday for the first face-to-face discussions since December 2008, when the Palestinians broke off negotiations over Israel’s offensive against the Gaza Strip. The US response to Rabbi Yosef, a founder of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, was swift. In a statement, US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said: "We regret and condemn the inflammatory statements by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace."
Two secular Palestinian organisations joined Hamas on Sunday in calling on President Mahmoud Abbas not to bow to U.S. pressure to resume direct peace talks with Israel, which they described as dangerous. “Insisting on direct talk throws a life line to Israel as its isolation deepens,” Hamas said in a statement issued jointly after a meeting in the Syrian capital with other Palestinian organisations that included Islamic Jihad. “A return to direct talks serves the U.S. and Zionist aim to liquidate the national rights of the Palestinian people,” the statement said. The statement was read by Maher al-Taher, a senior official in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine that does not usually toe the Hamas line.
The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organisation which has long advocated negotiating with Israel and has a minister in the Palestinian Authority, also signed the statement. The DFLP said direct talks cannot resume without international supervision and an end to the Gaza siege. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said the meeting was “exceptional” because it brought together 11 groups that represent what he described as a majority of the Palestinians. The schism between Hamas, which is supported by Syria and Iran, and Abbas’s U.S.-backed Palestinian authority, has weakened the Palestinian cause. Hamas does not rule out peace talks with Israel if they realise what it considers Palestinian rights.
Israeli media reported that Israel has rejected a Palestinian proposal to begin face-to-face peace talks on the basis of a statement by the so called Quartet of Middle East mediators that could set a clear agenda for the negotiations. Abbas has indicated that he could go for face-to-face negotiations,
BBC News | 29 July 2010 | 15:25 GMT
The Arab League has endorsed direct Palestinian peace talks with the Israelis, but has left the timing to the Palestinians, officials said. The US has been pushing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to restart the direct talks, suspended since 2008. Mr Abbas has demanded a settlement freeze and a return to 1967 borders as a precondition of direct talks. Correspondents say the move by the Arab League makes it likely the talks will resume in the coming months. The Palestinian president is now expected to return to Ramallah and seek endorsement for the direct talks from a meeting of Palestinian factions, says the BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly stated he wants direct talks to start as soon as possible. In response to the Arab League decision, his office released a statement saying he was "ready to start, already in the next few days, direct and frank talks with the Palestinian Authority".
The Arab League agreed in principle to direct talks with Israel provided the Palestinians saw fit, said Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who chaired a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. "Of course, there is agreement, but agreement over the principles of what will be discussed and the manner of the direct negotiations," he said. But the timing of the direct talks was "a matter for the Palestinian side to decide", he said. Mr Netanyahu has said he is ready to discuss all the core issues of the decades-old conflict, and has accused the Palestinians of avoiding direct talks. Mr Abbas wants Israel to agree to a complete halt in settlement construction and to accept a Palestinian state in territories seized in the 1967 Middle East war – the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
AP | Yahoo | 11/07/2010 | 03:18 pm
The Palestinian president, who is under U.S. pressure to resume direct talks with Israel, said that doing so under current circumstances would be pointless. The remarks by Mahmoud Abbas underline his determination not to return to the table unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commits to an internationally mandated settlement freeze and agrees to pick up talks where they left off under the Israeli leader’s predecessor in Dec. 2008. Netanyahu hasn’t agreed to either demand, and has so far curbed but not frozen settlement activity. He insists negotiations should be held without any preconditions. President Barack Obama called Abbas last week, following the U.S. president’s meeting with Netanyahu. The White House said Obama and Abbas talked about ways to revive direct talks soon.
"We have presented our vision and thoughts and said that if progress is made, we will move to direct talks, but that if no progress is made, it (direct negotiations) will be futile," Abbas said in a speech late Saturday. "If they (the Israelis) say `come and let’s start negotiations from zero,’ that is futile and pointless," Abbas added. The Palestinians say they that after 17 years of intermittent talks, they don’t want to start all over again, especially with an Israeli leader who has retreated from positions presented by his predecessors. In the absence of direct talks, a U.S. envoy has been shuttling between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in recent weeks. Abbas’ aide Yasser Abed Rabbo told Palestinian radio Sunday that the Palestinians don’t want to enter open-ended negotiations with Israel. "There must be a … timetable, a framework for these negotiations," he said. "We will not enter new negotiations that could take more than 10 years."