A French initiative at the United Nations to set a timeline for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state is being coordinated with the United States, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told The Washington Post on Monday.
“There is the French initiative now, in coordination with the United States, and they talk about a time limit. This U.N. resolution can be issued which would set a time to end the occupation and establish a state along the ’67 borders,” said Hamdallah, who succeeded Salam Fayyad as head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian government since 2013.
Hamdallah said the Palestinians wanted a “guarantee” for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
And as soon as that initiative is passed in the United Nations, negotiations with Israel can be revived, said Hamdallah.
The Palestinian prime minister would not divulge however whether the United States would use its veto power at the Security Council over aiming to set such parameters for negotiations, with the White House refusing to say in March whether the Obama administration would ultimately block the French initiative.
The move is seen by many to indicate the U.S. is ready to force Israel’s hand back into negotiations, especially amid political tensions between Israel and the U.S. that spiked around Israeli elections earlier this year.
The Palestinian prime minister indicated disinterest in direct talks with Israeli negotiators, and said his government was more interested in going through the U.N.
“We’ve experienced direct talks and they were a failure,” he said.
But the Palestinian prime minister also insisted the PA had assurances from the U.S. that Washington would push to restart negotiations once a deal with Iran over its nuclear program was finalized. Those talks face a June 30 deadline.
“We have had certain assurances from the United States that after the Iranian deal, they will resume negotiations between us and the Israelis,” said Hamdallah.
Diplomatic sources in Israel meanwhile played down the revelation, saying Israel was “not surprised at the coordination” between the U.S. and France on this issue, and stressed Israel’s close relations with both countries.
Hamdallah’s comments came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the PA for “moving away from negotiations” by setting preconditions.
Speaking with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeir during the latter’s Middle East visit, Netanyahu said, “Tell [the Palestinians] to get back to the negotiating table. Tell them that we should negotiate without preconditions.”
The Israeli premier said he remained “committed to the idea that the only way we can achieve a lasting peace is through the concept of two states for two peoples – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish nation state of Israel.”
Israel and the PA ditched negotiations last year after a nine-month push led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ended when the Palestinian Authority struck a reconciliation deal with terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The German foreign minister’s trip to Israel came on the heels of a series of trips by high-ranking European diplomats attempting to resuscitate the peace process, including Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende and European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, who warned of “negative steps” should the sides fail to resume peace talks.
Canada and New Zealand are scheduled to send their foreign ministers soon.