PLO, Fatah Reject Kerry's Plan for Peace Talks

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- If one were to have believed midweek headlines, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would have announced the resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority Friday morning before ending his sixth round of shuttle diplomacy.

Thursday's Jerusalem Post headlines quoted P.A. officials saying Kerry was "making real progress" after meetings Tuesday and Wednesday in Jordan with P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas and his delegation.

The officials reportedly said Israeli-Palestinian talks would probably resume in early August at the end of Ramadan.

Abbas told reporters in Amman he was "greatly encouraged" by Kerry's plan and the Arab League's approval to restart talks based on the 2002 Arab League peace initiative, which among other things calls for Israel's return to the pre-1967 borders (1948 armistice lines).

Israel didn't respond until late Thursday afternoon when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement denying Reuter's report that Israel is willing to consider withdrawal to the pre-1967 boundaries in talks with the P.A. His statement didn't address either a construction freeze or prisoner release.

Meanwhile, Abbas returned to Ramallah to brief the PLO Executive Committee and Fatah Central Committee Thursday on Kerry's plan, while chief negotiator Saeb Erekat stayed in Jordan to meet with the secretary of state Friday morning.

While Abbas seemed pretty happy with the Arab League's support, the decision-makers in Ramallah were less impressed.

Kerry also saw the 2002 Arab League plan as a win/win for Israel with its member nations agreeing to make peace with the Jewish state as part of the deal.

No one really knows if Netanyahu's statement factored into the rejection of Kerry's latest efforts to restart talks, but in the end, the announcement about restarting negotiations didn't materialize.

It's worthwhile noting that the PLO and Fatah never really rallied behind former state secretaries Condoleezza Rice or Hillary Clinton and despite all his efforts, Kerry doesn't appear to be faring any better.

Nonetheless, President Obama urged Netanyahu to resume talks in a phone call Thursday night. Earlier in the evening, Obama didn't mention Israel's prime minister in a recorded address at the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games, instead congratulating President Shimon Peres again on his recent 90th birthday.

Later, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Kerry is engaged in "taking steps to move both parties back to the negotiating table," saying it's "our view that settlement activity is an obstacle to progress."

"We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity and we also oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts, which would undermine peace efforts and would contradict Israeli commitments and obligations," Carney said.

So the prospects for a "two-state solution" or even a lasting peace are not around the corner and that's old news.

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