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Main stumbling blocks in the Israeli-Palestinian talks

By AFP - Apr 02,2014 - Last updated at Apr 02,2014

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Here is a summary of the key issues that have bogged down eight-months of intensive US efforts to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

The talks are currently scheduled to end on April 29, although Washington is hoping to extend the process into 2015.




Israel’s ongoing settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem, which is viewed as illegal under international law, has not slowed during the talks, deeply angering the Palestinians, who say they will not extend the talks beyond April without a complete construction freeze.

In the first six months of the talks, Israel advanced plans for more than 11,700 new housing units, Peace Now figures show.

Israel rejects the notion that settlement expansion runs counter to peace efforts, saying it never committed to any restraints on construction during the talks.


Jewish state


Another flashpoint issue is Palestinian recognition of Israel as “the Jewish state,” which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described as the “root of the conflict”. Israel fears that any flexibility on the issue would open the floodgates to millions of refugees, thereby posing a demographic threat to the “Jewish” character of the state.

But the Palestinians have flatly refused the demand, saying it would deny their historical narrative and effectively cancel out the right of their refugees to return to homes they fled from or were forced to leave during the 1948 war that followed Israel’s creation.

They see Netanyahu’s demand as a way to sidestep a negotiated solution to the refugee question.


Jordan Valley


Security arrangements in a future Palestinian state is a major bone of contention, particularly in the Jordan Valley which lies on the West Bank’s border with Jordan. Israel says the valley is crucial to its security and insists on maintaining a long-term military presence there.

The Palestinians reject this, saying it would make a mockery of their sovereignty and merely perpetuate the occupation. They have said they would accept deployment of a third party in the area, but this has been ruled out by Israel.




Under terms of a reciprocal agreement that opened the way for the start of the talks last July, Israel agreed to release 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners in four batches. So far, 78 of them have been freed, but Israel has refused to release the final group without a Palestinian commitment to extend the talks.

The Palestinians say Israel’s demand is “blackmail” and have refused to even consider extending the talks without the prisoners first being freed. They say the commitment to free them was not connected to or dependent upon progress in the talks.

They are demanding another 1,000 prisoners, including heavyweight political names, be freed as the price for extending the talks, but Israel has said it would only release some 400, none of them with blood on their hands.


UN moves


In exchange for Israel agreeing to free 104 prisoners, the Palestinians committed to freeze all moves to seek membership in UN organisations, which is a key part of their strategy to unilaterally further their claim for statehood.

Following Israel’s refusal to free the last 26 prisoners, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he had begun moves to join several UN organisations and sign on to international treaties in a move that angered the Israelis and prompted Kerry to cancel a planned trip to Ramallah.

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