Facing increased criticism for agreeing to resume peace talks with Israel, Palestinian Authority representatives on Sunday began talking once again about pre-conditions for reviving the peace process.
The PA leadership, meanwhile, instructed its representatives to refrain from public statements regarding the circumstances that prompted PA President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to the resumption of the peace talks.
A statement issued by Abbas’s office late Saturday said that only two officials were authorized to speak on behalf of the PA and PLO: Nabil Abu Rudaineh, Abbas’s spokesman, and Yasser Abed Rabbo, Secretary-General of the PLO.
Abed Rabbo announced Sunday that the Palestinian leadership still hasn’t decided to return to the negotiating table with Israel.
He said that such a decision was “conditioned on many clarifications about core issues.”
Abed Rabbo, in an interview with the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station, added that there were still many “sticking points” that need to be resolved.
The basis for the resumption of the negotiations will be laid during the Israeli-Palestinian-American meeting in Washington in the coming days.
It remained unclear Sunday whether the Palestinian leadership had received written or verbal assurances, if at all, from US Secretary of State John Kerry.
A PA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed that Kerry gave the Palestinians written assurances regarding their three demands: Israeli recognition of the pre-1967 lines as the basis for negotiations, cessation of settlement construction and release of Palestinian prisoners.
However, other Palestinian officials denied that Kerry had provided Abbas with any written assurances.
Abbas Zaki, member of the PLO Executive Committee, said that Kerry did not give Abbas any written assurances that the talks would be held on the basis of the pre-1967 lines.
Zaki said that Arab pressure prompted Abbas to agree to Kerry’s proposal for re-launching the talks with Israel.
The PA’s official newspaper, Al-Ayyam, published an article by political analyst Hani Habib in which he accuses Kerry of being skilled in “self-deception.”
Habib noted that the Palestinians did not receive any written assurances from Kerry that the talks would be based on the pre-1967 lines.
Instead, he said, the Palestinians received “worthless verbal assurances” from Kerry.
“We have discovered that one of Kerry’s characteristics is his extraordinary ability to deceive not only others, but first and foremost himself,” the PA-affiliated analyst wrote.
“This man is under the illusion that he has brought Palestinian and Israeli negotiators together.”
Abbas’s agreement to resume peace talks with Israel drew sharp criticism last weekend from most Palestinian factions, except for his ruling Fatah party.
Mohamed Dahlan, a leading Fatah operative and political foe of Abbas, Sunday joined the chorus of critics, accusing the PA president of committing “political suicide” by agreeing to return to the talks with Israel.
Dahlan, a former PA security commander in the Gaza Strip, said that Abbas’s “personal” decision to resume peace talks with Israel in return for some privileges was tantamount to political suicide.
Dahlan accused Abbas of taking important decisions without consulting with others or seeking the approval of his people.
PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced that the US was planning to invest $4 billion in the Palestinian private sector once the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations resumed.
Hamdallah expressed hope during a visit to Tulkarem in the northern West Bank that the talks would succeed, adding that that the economic situation was linked to political developments.
Mohamed Shtayyeh, a former PA negotiator and top Fatah official, said that the resumption of the peace talks requires a “clear position and an Israeli commitment to accept the pre-1967 lines, release prisoners and stop settlement construction."
Shtayyeh was speaking during a meeting with the Chinese envoy to Ramallah, who voiced his country’s support for the resumption of the peace process.