The Palestinian Authority will wait until the Arab League, the PLO and Fatah decide on the future of the peace process in light of Israel’s refusal to extend the moratorium on settlement construction. The three bodies are expected to meet soon to discuss the issue.
The Arab League and the two key decision-making bodies had authorized Abbas to negotiate with Israel.
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Until a few days ago, the PA’s position was that it would pull out of the US-sponsored direct talks with Israel immediately after the 10-month moratorium expired on September 26.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted last week as saying that the talks “won’t continue even for one day after the freeze ends.”
Speaking at a press conference in Paris on Monday following a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Abbas said he was in no rush to decide on the issue.
“We’re not going to react hastily,” he said when asked about the resumption of construction in the settlements.
“We will study all the results thoroughly with our leadership. I agreed with the Arab countries during my stay in New York [for the UN General Assembly session] that the Arab League would meet on October 4 to discuss this issue. Afterwards we will issue a Palestinian- Arab position.”
Abbas said he was convinced that all parties wanted peace, “although there are some obstacles from this party or that.”
Abbas said he was determined to pursue efforts to achieve peace because of a “fundamental change” in the policy of the US.
He called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to extend the moratorium by three to four months so as to facilitate efforts to achieve peace.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said the PA leadership’s stance toward the settlements remained unchanged.
“Peace and settlements don’t go together,” he reiterated.
The PA’s final position regarding the resumption of construction in the settlements will be determined after the meeting of the Arab League in Cairo on Monday, Abu Rudaineh said.
He told the Bethlehem-based Maan news agency that the PA was waiting for a final Israeli position on settlement construction before taking a decision.
The spokesman denied that the Americans were pressuring the PA to continue with the direct talks.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official and close adviser to Abbas, warned that the resumption of settlement construction would derail the peace process.
“There is no change in our policy toward the settlements,” Abed Rabbo said, in response to allegations that the PA leadership had succumbed to US pressure and was now ready to talk with Israel despite the renewed building.
“We have made it clear more than once that the continued construction in the settlements will sabotage the entire peace process,” he said.
The PLO Executive Committee will hold a meeting later this week to discuss Israeli “deceptions,” Abed Rabbo said.
The Palestinians have already made it clear that Israel alone would bear full responsibility for the collapse of the peace talks,” Abed Rabbo said.
He also expressed hope that the US administration would put pressure on Israel to halt construction in the settlements.
Abed Rabbo denounced Netanyahu as a ‘liar,” saying that the prime minister was releasing “empty statements” to cover up for the ongoing construction in the settlements.
Abbas is facing increased criticism from many Palestinians for allegedly agreeing to pursue the peace talks with Israel despite the resumption of settlement construction.
Sufyan Abu Zaida, a senior Fatah official and former PA minister, appealed to Abbas to pull out of the talks.
Abu Zaida told The Jerusalem Post that the PA should not repeat the mistake it made in the past when it agreed to negotiate with Israel “while the bulldozers were continuing to work.”