With all eyes focused on Syria and how the US will respond to Syrian President
Bashar Assad’s apparent use of chemical weapons, Israeli and Palestinian
representatives are expected to meet Tuesday for the sixth round of talks since
negotiations were restarted at the end of July in Washington.
session between Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and PLO chief negotiator Saeb
Erekat will be the second time the two have met this week.
The talks are
under a complete media blackout, with the Israeli side not saying where or when
they will take place, or even confirming their existence.
and media exposure, officials have said consistently since the talks began, will
only make them more difficult.
On Sunday the State Department issued a
laconic statement saying only that Israeli and Palestinian delegations “have
been meeting continuously since final status negotiations resumed” at the end of
“The negotiations have been serious, and US special envoy Martin
Indyk and his team have been fully briefed on the bilateral talks and also
participated in a bilateral negotiating session,” the State Department’s Jen
Psaki said. Her statement contradicts various reports that Indyk has not played
an active or direct part so far in the talks.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian
official in Ramallah said Monday that the PA has threatened to pull out of the
talks because of Israel’s refusal to halt settlement construction.
official was quoted by the Quds Net News Agency as saying the Palestinian
negotiating team had “expressed resentment over Israeli procrastination in
replying to queries regarding settlement activities.” He said the negotiators
had demanded an end to settlement construction to prevent the failure of the
“The Palestinian threat has reached the US
administration, which has yet to reply,” the official said. “The Palestinians
expressed in their message their rejection of Israel’s policy to create new
facts on the ground.”
Israeli officials say the Palestinians knew going
into negotiations that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had made no commitment
to halt settlement construction during the talks. This was confirmed publicly
last month by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry and Netanyahu were
tentatively scheduled to meet in Italy next week, but now it appears that
because of the Syrian situation neither will be traveling to Rome.
Palestinian official also said the PA held Israel responsible for the
“assassination” last week of three residents of the Kalandiya refugee camp
Jerusalem. The men were killed during an IDF military operation to arrest a
In their message to the Obama administration, the
Palestinians said they should not be held responsible for the failure of the
talks if Israel continued with its current policies, the official
Meanwhile, PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday night vowed to put
to a referendum any agreement he reaches with Israel.
Abbas, who was
speaking at the opening of a meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council in
Ramallah, said Palestinians everywhere would be asked to approve an agreement
with Israel through the referendum.
“If there is any development and an
agreement, it is known that we will go to a referendum,” Abbas said. “It won’t
be enough to have the approval of the Fatah Central Committee or the PLO
Executive Council for an agreement.
Rather, we would go to a referendum
everywhere because the agreement represents Palestinians
Referring to the current peace talks, Abbas said that so far
the two sides had only presented their views.
“We will wait for a period
of six to nine months,” he said.
Abbas said he agreed to postpone efforts
to seek full United Nations membership of a Palestinian state in return for the
release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
“I consider the issue of
the UN to be very important, but the case of the prisoners is worthy of
sacrifice,” he added. “We have prepared 63 requests to join 63 UN agencies and
conventions, but I said the issue of the prisoners is now more
Abbas reassured the Fatah leaders that he would not make
any concessions during the negotiations with Israel.
“Our positions are
the same as previous ones,” he explained. “This means Jerusalem is at the top of
our list of priorities. A Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.
Without that there will be no solution. There will be no state without
Jerusalem, which is a redline for us.”
Abbas defended Palestinian
officials who held a series of meetings recently with Israelis, saying it had
been a way of attempting to impact Israeli public opinion. He said that
Palestinians who met with Israelis were not “traitors.”
Abbas added that
he was under pressure from the US and Israel not to achieve unity with Hamas. He
also accused Hamas of meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs.
voiced opposition to a military strike against Syria.
“We don’t accept
striking an Arab country from outside,” he said. “But we also condemn whoever
used chemical weapons and demand a peaceful solution.”