RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas faces only bad options, from his perspective, as he heads into a White House meeting Monday with President Obama.
Abbas could accept a US-proposed framework for an Israeli-Palestinian partition deal, he could reject it, or he could agree to extend negotiations.
Secretary of State John Kerry has not presented a written plan, but Abbas aides say they expect it to endorse the Palestinian position that the border between Israel and a future Palestine would be based on Israel’s 1967 frontier, before it captured the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, the lands the Palestinians want for a state.
Under the US proposal, the two sides would negotiate land swaps that would allow Israel to annex some occupied lands and keep an unspecified number of settlements. The Palestinians would recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. The Palestinians would establish a capital ‘‘in Jerusalem,’’ but there would be no specific mention of East Jerusalem.
In addition, Israel would be permitted to maintain a military presence on the Palestinian state’s eastern border, with Jordan, for some years after a deal.
Abbas said recently there is ‘‘no way’’ he could accept some of these provisions, suggesting his people might rise up against him if he did so and that such a deal would stain his legacy. Fatah, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Arab League foreign ministers have also urged him to say no to some or all of anticipated provisions in the framework.
Abbas says that he cannot recognize Israel as a Jewish state because this would prejudice negotiations on the fate of several million Palestinian refugees and their descendants, including their ‘‘right of return’’ to what is now Israel. He says it would also harm the rights of Israel’s large Arab minority.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Palestinians must bestow the special recognition to prove they are fundamentally ready to make peace.
Abbas also is concerned Kerry is retreating from a solution for Jerusalem proposed by then-President Bill Clinton in 2000 — Arab neighborhoods to Palestine, Jewish areas to Israel. The Palestinians fear if they OK a vague reference to Jerusalem in Kerry’s plan, they will get a capital on the city’s edge.
In previous talks, Palestinians agreed to minor land swaps. Palestinian officials have said Kerry is now asking them to take into account ‘‘subsequent developments,’’ meaning Israeli settlements. Israel has said it wants to annex ‘‘settlement blocs,’’ which according to some officials could mean 12 percent of the West Bank, or six times as much land area as Abbas previously offered to swap.
Abbas wants to avoid saying no to Obama and Kerry for now. Both Abbas and Netanyahu fear being blamed for derailing US peace efforts, which resumed when Kerry got the two sides back to the table in July for nine months of talks.
Rebuffing the United States would mean a major reversal of Abbas’s political strategy, based on close ties with Washington.
For Abbas, extending the negotiations would be the least damaging of three bad choices. In committing to nine months of talks with Israel last July, Abbas put aside his longstanding objections to negotiating while Israel continues to expand settlements.