As the nine-month deadline for the peace talks expired on Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority held Israel responsible for the current crisis but said it would be prepared to extend the negotiations if Israel accepted three conditions.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas outlined those conditions to reporters in Ramallah: the release of the fourth and final batch of prisoners; a full cessation of settlement construction; and Israeli agreement to negotiate over drawing the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
Abbas said the biggest problem facing the negotiations was the issue of the borders.
“No one knows where Israel’s borders are,” he said. “We are determined to know where our borders and their borders are, otherwise there will be no peace. The Israelis need to abandon the principle according to which their borders lie where their soldiers set foot.”
He reiterated his demand that Jerusalem become the future capital of a Palestinian state, and accused Israel of “cleansing” Jerusalem of its Arab residents.
“Until now, Israel does not want to admit that east Jerusalem is an occupied city,” he said, adding that “on November 29, 2012, we got an international resolution that unequivocally states that east Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine, and that the land of the Palestinian state is on the 1967 border.”
Abbas said Jerusalem was not only a Palestinian city, but also an Islamic, Christian and international city.
“Jerusalem is our capital, and we don’t want to build a fence between east Jerusalem and west Jerusalem,” he stated.
“We want it to be open to all faiths.”
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, accused Israel of sabotaging the peace process and the twostate solution.
“The government of Israel, a ruling coalition representing the most extremist sectors of Israeli society, including the settlement movement, never prioritized peace as a strategic objective,” Erekat said in a statement published hours before the expiration of the deadline. “We believe that the international community must now do what is needed in order to make clear to Israel that choosing settlements and apartheid over peace has a political, legal and economic cost.”
He stressed that the Palestinians remained fully committed to the nine-month negotiations, “despite an escalation of oppressive Israeli policies.”
Erekat said Israel should understand that negotiations were a “peaceful tool toward achieving peace, rather than a smokescreen behind which it can continue its violations of human rights, further its settlement enterprise and make the two-state solution increasingly impossible.”
He claimed that Israel had never given the negotiations a chance to succeed.
“Everything Israel did during the past nine months was aimed at sabotaging Palestinian and international efforts to achieve the two-state solution,” he said.