A meeting between Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed, an official said, after a fatal shooting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed on Palestinian leaders.
But Palestinians said the postponement came at the behest of the Americans, and to give time for US envoy Martin Indyk to arrive in the region to attend.
“The meeting that was planned for tonight between Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams will not be taking place. It’s being postponed,” the Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The official declined to explain the decision, but said Monday’s killing of an Israeli police officer in the West Bank “was the direct result of ongoing incitement and glorification of terrorism that we see in the official Palestinian media and education system.”
On Monday evening 47-year-old Baruch Mizrahi, a high-ranking officer in the intelligence division, was shot dead while driving with his family southwest of Idhna, a village outside Hebron.
Israel’s army and police were still hunting for the suspected gunman on Wednesday, after carrying out extensive searches around Idhna.
Netanyahu said the “assassination is the result of the incitement to hatred by Palestinian Authority leaders who continue to peddle hate-filled material against Israel.”
Palestinian officials told AFP the meeting was being postponed to Thursday to allow for the arrival of Indyk to the region.
“Today’s meeting was pushed back on a request from the Americans,” Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told journalists.
Abu Rudeina added that Abbas had “condemned all violence” during a meeting with a delegation of Israeli opposition MPs in the West Bank administrative centre of Ramallah.
“We’re against violence and a return to violence,” Abu Rudeina said.
Palestine Liberation Organisation official Mohammed al-Madani urged the Israelis to adopt a similar stance.
“We hope also to hear from the Israeli side a condemnation of daily killings of Palestinians by the Israeli army,” said Madani.
Since January 1, seven Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank, and 10 in Gaza, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met on Sunday, and held a trilateral meeting with Indyk on Thursday in a bid to try to save the stagnant peace process.
The talks hit an impasse two weeks ago when Israel refused to release as agreed a group of Palestinian prisoners, and the Palestinians retaliated by seeking accession to several international treaties.
Abu Rudeina said the Palestinians were still demanding the freedom of 26 prisoners, a final batch of four whose release was agreed when talks began in July.
“What’s needed now is Israel’s commitment on issues that could lead to an extension of talks. If they commit, we’re ready,” he said.
The United States has been trying to extend talks beyond their April 29 deadline, so far with no apparent success.
“An extension of talks is a matter that needs to be discussed. Meetings are ongoing,” Abu Rudeina said.