PA officials 'surprised' to hear about US freeze offer

Abbas confidant criticizes Obama administration for "succumbing to Netanyahu's extortion"; PA expresses concerns over proposal.

November 14, 2010 20:09
2 minute read.
Settler walks near West Bank construction site

Settlement Building 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Palestinian Authority officials said on Sunday that they were “surprised” to hear about the latest US proposal for a three-month settlement freeze in return for a package of incentives to Israel.

Some officials in Ramallah did not hide their disappointment with the “sudden change” in US policy which, they explained, puts the PA in a difficult situation. However, they stopped short of rejecting the US offer in public.

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The officials expressed strong reservations about the US proposal, mainly because it does not include east Jerusalem and limits the freeze to three months only.

One official closely associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas criticized the US Administration for “succumbing to [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s extortions.”

The official told The Jerusalem Post that the PA’s credibility would be severely damaged if it resumed the peace talks with Israel while “the building was continuing in East Jerusalem.”

Abbas and other Palestinian officials had stressed in the past few weeks that they would not return to the negotiating table unless Israel halted all settlement construction, including in east Jerusalem. They had also voiced their opposition to a temporary freeze.

Although the PA said it would wait for clarifications from the US Administration regarding the incentive package, some of Abbas’s aides expressed fear that Washington would put heavy pressure on the Palestinian leadership to return to the talks once the Israeli government agrees to a three-month freeze.

Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, and Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, said that the PA would consult with “Palestinian and Arab leaderships” before announcing its final stance regarding the US proposal.

The PLO Executive Committee, a key decision-making body dominated by Abbas loyalists, on Sunday reiterated its opposition to a “partial freeze” of settlement construction, adding that construction should also be halted in east Jerusalem.

“A settlement freeze must be comprehensive and permanent,” the committee said in a statement. “What’s the point of negotiating while Israel is continuing to steal Palestinian land?”

In a message directed toward the US administration, the committee warned that failure to force Israel to stop its “illegitimate” settlement on Palestinian lands would undermine any chance of reaching a two-state solution and plunge the region into violence.”

The PLO committee also expressed opposition to the US package of incentives to Israel and warned against succumbing to Israeli “extortion.” 

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