Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat will not depart for preliminary peace talks in Washington until his government receives assurances regarding Israel’s readiness to negotiate a deal based on the 1967 lines and a commitment to release prisoners who have been serving sentences handed down before the signing of the Oslo Accords, the pan-Arab daily newspaper Al-Hayat reported Tuesday.
Erekat, the veteran negotiator, is due to meet with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molho early next week in the American capital to discuss the terms for renewing talks.
A spokesperson for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that Erekat would insist on establishing a framework for negotiations that would eventually address key Palestinian demands before direct talks with Israel resume, according to Israel Radio.
Israeli officials are also lowering expectations in the run-up to next week. Likud Beytenu MK Avigdor Liberman told Israel Radio that it remains uncertain as to whether peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will indeed be renewed.
Liberman, the former foreign minister who currently chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said on Tuesday that the negotiating teams that are due in Washington early next week will seek to reach agreement on an agenda for the talks.
In the interview with Israel Radio, Liberman repeated his view that the preferred route for Israel would be to strive for a long-term interim agreement with the Palestinian Authority rather than a final-status deal.
The former foreign minister expressed his view that even if Israel acceded to Palestinian demands to return to the ’67 lines and partition Jerusalem, the PA would still refuse to end the conflict.
Liberman told Israel Radio that he didn’t see the necessity in calling a referendum – which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed to initiate in the event that a deal is reached with Ramallah - for any agreement signed with the Palestinians. The lawmaker said that the practice of referendums was “uncommon” for Israel.
Liberman said that any agreement would in all likelihood be supported by a majority of Israelis due to what he termed “media brainwash” as well as “the bear hug that Israel can expect from the international community.”
The former foreign minister has previously spoken out against peace, stating in February: "Anyone who thinks that in the center of the diplomatic, political and social tsunami that is shaking the Arab world it is possible to get a magical solution of comprehensive peace with the Palestinians does not understand."
More explicity, he stated that peace with the Palestinians is "impossible."
“I am saying clearly that it is impossible to reach a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians,” said Liberman, who has not hidden his desire to return to the helm at the Foreign Ministry after his upcoming trial. “It is impossible to solve the conflict, it needs to be managed.”