What a week for all involved in the negotiations to push forward the peace process for Israel and the Palestinians.
We spoke about it on the Harvest Show - a clandestine meeting between the sides – now details have emerged and we see a bit more in what has happened.
The meeting was nine-hours long between Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat held at the request of US envoy Martin Indyk.
Reacting to Israel's settlement expansion announced earlier in the week, and Israel's reluctance to fulfill the agreed to prisoner release, the Palestinians have responded with new conditions to pursue the negotiations past the April deadline until the end of the year.
The new conditions Israel would need to fulfill are:
- Israeli recognition of the pre-1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital - The release of 1,200 more Palestinian prisoners, the officials said. - The release of three senior Palestinians; Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Sa'adat and Fuad Shobaki. - A complete cessation of settlement construction - The imposition of PA sovereignty over Area C in the West Bank - No further Israeli military operations in PA-controlled territories - Issuance of Reunion permits for approximately 15,000 Palestinians. - The reopening the Gaza border crossings - The lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip - Agreement to the return of a group of Palestinians who, after having fire fights with Israeli soldiers back in 2002, took over the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and were subsequently deported to the Gaza Strip and Europe after a deal was struck to leave the Church.
Israel for it's part, has now canceled the fourth phase of the prisoner release and asked the Palestinians to retract their applications to 15 UN international bodies.
According to U.S. officials, President Barak Obama believes John Kerry's monumental efforts to get the sides to agree on how to talk to each other in this peace process have reached their limit. The US Secretary of State has said that both sides have taken unhelpful steps in the process, and that Washington will be evaluating its role in the Middle East peace process.
Perhaps the most tell tale sign of pending collapse, is the statement that there is a limit to the time the United States can spend on these negotiations and that they are not open-ended.
On a different matter, as I mentioned on the Harvest Show, for the next two weeks I will be focusing our time together with some 'Moments from the Holy Land' as we prepare our hearts during this Lenten period for the celebration of Easter. The blogging will pick up again after then...
So join me on Harvest each day for a little insight and inspiration from here in Jerusalem! Don't forget you can always go to harvest-tv.com to watch the shows whenever you like!
Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting