Palestinians warn of 'new measures' if talks fail
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The Palestinian president on Tuesday threatened to take "new measures" against Israel if a much-anticipated meeting in Jordan fails to bring about a resumption of peace talks.
The measures could include more action at the U.N. Mahmoud Abbas issued the warning shortly before the chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were to meet in Amman. The goal of their meeting, the first between the sides in more than a year, is to find an agenda for renewed peace talks.
The Palestinians say Israel must freeze settlement construction and agree to return to its pre-1967 lines for peace talks to resume. The Palestinians want to establish an independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — areas that were captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
Abbas said that if Israel accepts the Palestinian conditions, "we will go to negotiations." He said the Palestinians have set a Jan. 26 deadline for talks to resume. "After that date, we will take new measures. These measures might be hard," he said.
Abbas said no decision has been made yet. But Palestinian officials have said they are considering resuming their push for U.N. membership as well as ways to isolate Israel at the United Nations, such as a new resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Peace talks broke down in September 2010 after an Israeli slowdown on settlement construction expired. The Palestinians say there is no point in negotiating if Israel continues to settle captured lands. Some 500,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Israel says peace talks should begin immediately without any preconditions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already has ruled out a return to the 1967 lines, saying they would be indefensible.
Tuesday's meeting is taking place under the auspices of the Quartet of Mideast peace makers. The group, which includes the U.S., European Union, Russia and the United Nations, has been trying to restart peace talks for months, with the goal of brokering a peace deal by the end of the year.
In September, the Quartet set forth a four-month target for the sides to present proposals on the key issues of future borders and security arrangements. The Palestinians believe the timeline expires on Jan. 26. Israel says the clock doesn't start ticking until negotiations are under way.
The meeting comes as Abbas is trying to reconcile with the militant Hamas group, which seized control of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Abbas forces in 2007. Israel has warned it will not negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group. Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction, has called on Abbas to call off Tuesday's meeting.
Jordan's King Abdullah II has implored Israel and Palestinians to resume peace talks. Abdullah is worried about the growing influence of Islamic groups in the Middle East and fears that continued deadlock in peace efforts could strengthen radicals.
Ahead of Tuesday's meeting, 13 Jordanian opposition groups comprising Muslim fundamentalists and leftist groups called for a demonstration against the talks. The groups said the Palestinians must instead carry out a third uprising or armed resistance against Israel.
Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel.
Additional reporting by Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan.