In light of the Arab League’s decision last week to authorize the Palestinian
Authority to negotiate directly with Israel, PA officials denied that they have
abandoned their conditions for holding such talks.
The PA has been
accused by its rivals in Hamas of lying to the Palestinians about its readiness
to enter into direct negotiations.
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Some Palestinian groups criticized the
Arab League for “surrendering” to pressure without insisting on written
assurances about the future of the peace talks.
The Arab League’s
decision to endorse the direct talks with Israel is the result of heavy and
unprecedented American and European pressure, a senior PA official in Ramallah
told The Jerusalem Post over the weekend.
The official said that the US
administration had also exerted immense pressure on PA President Mahmoud Abbas
to agree to unconditional direct talks with Israel.
“The pressure on
President Abbas undermines the PA’s standing among Palestinians,” the official
cautioned. “The Americans and Europeans are making us lose our
Erekat denies reports talks will begin after Ramadan
Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed that the
Palestinians and Arabs had come under heavy pressure from the US and the EU to
agree to direct negotiations.
However, he denied that the Palestinians
were planning to begin the talks with Israel after Ramadan, which this year ends
“The question is not whether the negotiations will take
place after Ramadan,” he said. “We want to resume the negotiations, but the key
is in the hands of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The moment he agrees to
stop settlement construction, including in Jerusalem, and accepts the two-state
solution, we will have direct talks.”
Erekat accused the Israeli media of
lying by saying the PA has agreed to direct negotiations. “Ninety-nine percent
of what is published in the Israeli media is lies,” he told the Bethlehem-based
Maan news agency. “Israel is always releasing test balloons.”
denied that the Egyptians have been pressuring the PA to agree to direct
Ashrawi: The pressure was tantamount to extortion
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi, a member of Prime
Minister Salam Fayyad’s Third Way party, said that the US administration had
threatened to “isolate” the Palestinians if they refused to enter into direct
“The pressure was tantamount to extortion,” Ashrawi told the
London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. “I never saw such pressure on the
Palestinians in the history of negotiations with Israel.”
She said that
the Europeans, at the request of the Obama administration, had also exerted
heavy pressure not only on the Palestinians, but also the Arab
Ashrawi said that Washington had hinted that financial aid to
the PA would be affected if the Palestinians continue to reject direct
She described the Arab League decision to endorse direct
talks as an effort to “appease” the Americans.
She added that Palestinian
conditions for entering direct talks remained unchanged, namely that Israel
should freeze all settlement construction and accept the twostate solution on
the basis of the pre- 1967 lines.
PA: Proximity talks have not achieved anything
Ashrawi and other PA representatives
stressed over the weekend that the “proximity talks” that have been taking place
in the past few months have not achieved anything.
“The Israelis have yet
to respond to questions raised by the Palestinians about the borders and
security of a Palestinian state,” Ashrawi said.
Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Friday that the US was evaluating a letter
it received from the Arab Peace Initiative Committee, which he said “entails how
direct negotiations would unfold.”
He added, “We have been trading ideas
with the parties so that everyone has the right expectations should Prime
Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas agree to move forward into direct
negotiations. We want to see them get into direct negotiations as quickly as
possible and that will be our focus in the coming days.”
Ban tells Barak freeze should extend to east Jerusalem
Also Friday, UN
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in New
“They discussed a range of issues, including Lebanon and the
situation in Gaza, on which the secretary-general underscored the importance of
a further easing of the closures,” Ban’s office said in a statement.
secretary-general said that Israel should continue its restraint on settlement
activity and should extend it to east Jerusalem, as well as take other steps
that Ban thought could help efforts to proceed to direct talks between Israel
and the Palestinian Authority.
Hilary Leila Krieger, Tovah Lazaroff and
Jordana Horn in New York contributed to this report.