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 position. 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 only three months.
closely associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas criticized the US
administration for “succumbing to [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s
The official told The Jerusalem Post
that the PA’s
credibility would be severely damaged if it resumed the peace talks with Israel
while “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
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 twostate solution and plunge the region into
The PLO committee also expressed opposition to the US package
of incentives to Israel and warned against succumbing to Israeli “extortion.”