Palestinians, Israel 'awaiting two very important dates'
Published Sunday 23/03/2014 (updated) 23/03/2014 22:26
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- As pressure mounts on Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to extend US-brokered peace talks with Israel beyond the agreed end date of April 29, Palestinians, Israelis, and other observers eagerly to anticipate next move.
Israeli political analyst Audi Segal told Israel's Channel 2 on Friday that "negotiations are about to explode, as no breakthrough has been made."
Fatah official and Central Committee member Mahmoud al-Aloul told Ma'an that the Palestinian side is awaiting two very important dates.
Al-Aloul says that the first date is March 29, which is the day that Israel is supposed to free the last group of Palestinian prisoners who have been in custody since before the Oslo Accord of 1994.
So far, Israel has released three groups of these "veteran prisoners" as part of a trust-building measure. However, Israeli officials have hinted that release of the fourth group might be conditional on Abbas agreeing to extend talks.
The other date is April 29, the final day of a nine-month period agreed upon by the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Israel and the US brokers to reach an agreement in the ongoing peace talks.
"There is no room for talks about renewing negotiations," al-Aloul said, noting that "Israel has not put into effect any of the demands during the current round of negotiations."
However, the Fatah official says the remaining weeks will see intensive US efforts to try and bridge the gap between the Palestinians and Israel.
Asked about possible Israeli reluctance to free the last group of veteran Palestinian prisoners, al-Aloul said if Israeli breaks its commitment, the Palestinians have different choices and "will stop everything because such an Israeli move will mean a political dispute with the US."
An agreement to free Palestinian prisoners, he added, was made between Israel and the US the main sponsor of the peace process. Thus, if Israel breaches that agreement, its credibility will be tested, and the Palestinians will be obliged to seek recognition of a Palestinian state through international organizations.
Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians were relaunched in July under the auspices of the US after nearly three years of impasse.
Israel's government has announced the construction of thousands of settler housing units and its army has killed 60 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza since the talks began.