You can now read 10 articles each month for free on

The Boston Globe


Palestinians ready to extend talks with Israel

BEIT JALLA, West Bank — The Palestinians are ready to extend current peace talks with Israel beyond an April deadline if a detailed framework agreement is in place by then, the chief Palestinian negotiator said Wednesday.

The comments by Saeb Erekat marked the first time Palestinian negotiators endorsed the US idea of seeking a preliminary rather than a final deal by the end of a nine-month period of negotiations to which both sides agreed at the outset.

Continue reading below

Erekat said it is possible to reach such a framework agreement by the end of April, despite wide gaps between President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who holds tougher positions than his predecessors.

Erekat suggested that much ground has already been covered in previous negotiations on a final peace deal, dating to 2000.

‘‘Actually, it’s about decisions,’’ he told reporters in the town of Beit Jalla, adjacent to biblical Bethlehem. ‘‘If Netanyahu decides it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.’’

Netanyahu’s office had no immediate comment.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war, but are ready for minor land swaps to enable Israel to keep some of the larger of dozens of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Continue reading below

Unlike his predecessor, Netanyahu has refused to accept the pre-1967 lines as a starting point for border talks and rejects a partition of Jerusalem into an Israeli and a Palestinian capital.

Under US pressure, Israel and the Palestinians resumed negotiations last summer, agreeing to talk for nine months, with the goal of reaching a permanent peace agreement.

With little progress so far, the Americans are now setting their sights on a preliminary deal.

Erekat said that based on the July 29 start of negotiations, they are to end on April 29.

‘‘We are not talking about a peace treaty on the 29th of April,’’ he said. “We are talking about a framework agreement.’’

He described a framework deal as more detailed than a declaration of principles and said it would have to be turned into a full peace treaty in six to 12 months.

Asked whether the Palestinians would continue the talks, provided a framework deal is in place by April, Erekat said: ‘‘Absolutely, if we reach a framework agreement that specifies the borders, the percentage of swaps, the security arrangements, the Jerusalem status, refugees, and then that is the skeleton.’’

Still, reaching a framework deal on all core issues is a longshot.

Israel and the Palestinians have vast differences over future borders, the status of Palestinian refugees who seek to return to lost properties in what is now Israel, and the conflicting claims to Jerusalem and its sensitive holy sites.

Meanwhile, Erekat denied reports, including those from senior Abbas aides, that US Secretary of State John F. Kerry presented a proposal for security arrangements between Israel and a future state of Palestine in talks this month.

Palestinian officials have said that under that proposal, Israeli troops would be able to control Palestine’s eastern border with Jordan for at least 10 years.

Abbas aides have in the past balked at the idea of a long-term Israeli military presence in a future Palestinian state.

Erekat said Wednesday that Kerry did not present comprehensive proposals.

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than $1 a week