WASHINGTON – PLO Ambassador to the US Maen Areikat maintained high hopes and low expectations for renewed peace talks between Palestinians and Israel in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Friday.

Areikat’s comments came as US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to arrive in the region on his push to renew negotiations between the two parties.

In the discussion, Areikat cast doubt on the intentions of Israel’s leadership to genuinely engage in dialogue – and on the prospects that Palestinian preconditions could reasonably be met.

“We have not reached the point where we can say that we, the Palestinians, are satisfied with the progress of these discussions,” Areikat told the Post, adding that he does not underestimate Kerry’s resolve.

Areikat said that the Palestinians had made clear to Kerry that they will not begin negotiations without clarified terms of reference – actions taken by the Israelis that demonstrate they will respect the pre-1967 lines with minor swaps, that settlement building has truly frozen and that Palestinian prisoners will be released.

“Nothing has emerged from these meetings for the American side to be able to announce that the two sides accepted to engage politically,” Areikat explained. “There is a lot of zeal, a lot of focus and commitment by the secretary of state that many Israelis and Palestinians, and even Americans are saying...

Are there some concrete results to build on as a result of all these meetings?” Kerry has visited the region more times since taking office last February than his predecessor Hillary Clinton did in four years as secretary of state. But while Kerry has made no secret of his interest in resolving the conflict, officials and experts who have followed the peace process for years have questioned his tactics.

Areikat described the talks as exceptionally private, and the circle of people who know their details as notably small.

“It’s intentional that these discussions are being held in a more private manner than before,” Areikat said. “A large percentage of these discussions are being conducted directly between the secretary of state and President [Mahmoud] Abbas, and Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu.”

Areikat said the Israeli government is doing “all it can to destroy the two-state solution,” and that even if the parties return to negotiations, he does not believe Netanyahu will genuinely engage to put an end to the conflict.

“I think they believe that time is on their side, and that the longer they defer the resolution of the conflict, the better off the conditions and the position of Israel for any future engagement,” he said.

Areikat, who was educated in the United States, worked in the Palestinian Authority’s negotiations department for a decade and led the department in 2008. He has been ambassador to the US since 2009.

“We cannot continue to fool our people and tell them that something is going to come out as a result of these deliberations and discussions, when the Israelis are not doing anything to indicate their willingness to accommodate a Palestinian state next to Israel,” Areikat said.

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