U.S. Officials: We May Not Meet Deadline for Peace Agreement

YERUSHALAYIM -

It becomes ever more unlikely that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s April deadline for peace in the Mideast will be met, American officials acknowledged to The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Even the framework for negotiations that would continue beyond the nine-month deadline set last summer will probably need more time if it is to salvage the talks.

Unable to resolve the same intractable issues that have frustrated a long succession of presidents and secretaries of state, the State Department is now privately admitting that the hard date they originally set was “artificial.”

The latest setback came Monday — not on borders or security, but on the more basic issue, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sees it, of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

In an interview with The New York Times on Monday, Abbas once again stated that he would not give such recognition.

“The chairman of the PA was quoted today as saying that he is not prepared to recognize the Jewish state. And this comes with him knowing that there will not be an agreement without recognition of the nation state of the Jews,” Netanyahu said at the Likud faction meeting.

Abbas’s statement to the Times that he was willing to allow IDF troops to remain in the future Palestinian state for a five-year transitional period, and not the maximum three years he had previously stipulated, was eclipsed by the issue of recognition.

“Now we will see if those same international actors, who until now have solely put pressure on Israel, will make clear to the Palestinian Authority what exactly will happen to the Palestinians if there will not be an agreement,” Netanyahu said.

“Because, unless the Palestinians understand that they will pay a price for the failure of peace talks, they will prefer not to continue the talks.”