Palestinian Authority officials denied over the weekend that members of its
negotiating team in talks with Israel had resigned in protest against settlement
construction and other measures taken by Jerusalem.
A report about the
resignation of the negotiating team, headed by Saeb Erekat, first appeared in
the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.
According to the report, Erekat and
Mohamed Shtayyeh, a member of the negotiating team, tendered their resignation
to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. However, a source in the PLO Negotiations
Department denied the report, calling it “Israeli lies” and saying it was
The PA envoy to Jordan, Atallah Khairi, also denied
that Erekat and the members of the negotiating team had quit.
Abbas told him during a phone conversation that Erekat was continuing to carry
out his duties “in line with the requirements of Palestinian interests.” The
envoy quoted the PA president as saying that neither Erekat nor Shtayyeh had
Wasel Abu Yusef, a PLO executive committee member, said that
the report about the resignation of the negotiating team was baseless. He
explained that the executive committee, which held a meeting in Ramallah last
Thursday, did not discuss the issue of the resignation of Erekat or his team
The report about the resignations came amid increased calls by
PLO and Fatah officials to suspend the peace talks with Israel over plans to
build new housing units in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem
Hussam Khader, a senior Fatah operative from the Nablus
area, called on Abbas to replace the current negotiators with a new
Khader said that if the report about Erekat’s resignation was true,
the PA president should accept it immediately and appoint new
Some Palestinians speculated that the report about the
resignation was intended to send messages to the US administration and the
Palestinian street. It appeared shortly after the announcement that US Secretary
of State John Kerry would be returning to the region this week for talks with
both sides on the current status of the peace negotiations.
about the resignation of Erekat is designed to show the Americans that the
Palestinians are very angry with recent Israeli decisions to build in
settlements and east Jerusalem,” a Fatah legislator told The Jerusalem
On the other hand, the legislator said, the news was aimed at
containing growing criticism among Palestinians of the PA leadership because of
the continued peace talks. Some of the criticism had been directed against
Erekat personally, he noted.
Israeli officials, meanwhile, took the
reports in stride.
“To be frank,” one official said, “this has for too
long been the standard operating procedure for the Palestinians: ‘Unless we get
what we want, we will jump off the cliff, dismantle the PA, renounce the Oslo
Accords, resign.’ This is the way they conduct brinkmanship
Instead of “playing games,” the official said, “they
should negotiate seriously.”
Meanwhile, US State Department spokeswoman
Jen Psaki, when asked about the report in Washington at the daily press briefing
on Friday, said the US had “been in touch” with the Palestinian side, and that
the Palestinians “remain fully committed to the negotiations for the nine months
agreed upon, and they fully intend to participate in the next round of
She said the US remained committed to the goal of a
two-state solution emerging out of the current round of negotiations, which are
now in their fourth month, and that this was one of the reasons Kerry would be
traveling overseas this week.
Kerry is expected in Israel on Tuesday, for
talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Abbas in
Bethlehem. He is also expected to discuss the negotiations during stopovers in
Amman and Riyadh.