Israel and the Palestinian Authority have agreed on the “core issues” that will
be discussed during their direct talks, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief
negotiator, said over the weekend.
Erekat claimed that PA President
Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed at their meeting in
Washington on Thursday that the peace talks would be resumed from the point
where they were stopped two years ago under then-prime minister Ehud
Netanyahu, however, has said repeatedly that he was not bound by
concessions that Olmert offered, and the Palestinians rejected.
reached agreement on the agenda of the direct talks,” Erekat said. “We have also
reached agreement on a timeline for a temporary framework agreement – 12
Erekat said that the final-status issues that the sides have
agreed to discuss during this period include Jerusalem, borders, refugees,
settlements, water, security and prisoners held in Israeli jails.
added that defining the future borders of a Palestinian state would be the first
issue on the negotiating table. “This is the time for decision-making, not
negotiations,” he said.
“What is needed is agreement on the principles of
the finalstatus issues. When the leaders and decision-makers agree on the
principles, the negotiators will then start discussing the
Erekat revealed that the Palestinians have set up 14 committees
consisting of more than 220 experts to prepare for the negotiations.
Palestinians were encouraged by what they heard from the US administration at
the launch ceremony for the direct talks last week, he said.
Americans told us that they plan to play an active and major role in the peace
talks,” he said, noting that it was still unclear whether US officials would be
present at the negotiating table.
Erekat and other PA officials warned
that the talks would be suspended if the government resumed construction in the
“If they continue with settlement construction, they will
close the door to negotiations,” he cautioned.
“Settlements and peace
can’t go together.”
The Palestinians hoped that Israel would do what it
did in Sinai and the Gaza Strip, when it evacuated settlements, Erekat
“Israel destroyed settlements in the Gaza Strip and Sinai, and we
hope that this experience will be repeated for the third time in the West Bank,”
Israeli officials would not confirm any of Erekat’s claims,
saying that it was agreed in Washington that the content of the talks would not
be leaked. Netanyahu, when asked in Washington why he was saying nothing about the
content of the negotiations, told journalists, “You want headlines, I want an
Israeli officials did confirm, however, that a meeting
between the negotiating teams would take place sometime this week, although who
would be involved in the talks was not revealed. Abbas and Netanyahu are
scheduled to meet again on September 14 in Sharm e-Sheikh.
said in Washington that the goal of the talks was to reach a framework agreement
within a year, meaning an agreement in principle on the core issues between the
leaders, with the negotiating teams left to work out all the details.
private meetings, Netanyahu has dismissed as secondary domestic political
concerns, saying that what was important was “to reach an agreement I believe
If such an agreement can be reached, he has said, he will stand
before the Israeli public, and the whole world, and support it.
saying that there would be a comprehensive public debate on any agreement, he
has not said what exactly that meant, and whether there would be a referendum or
perhaps an early election.
Netanyahu is expected to update the cabinet
and Likud ministers on Sunday, and to brief each minister
He has already spoken to Interior Minister and Shas
chairman Eli Yishai from Washington.
Netanyahu has invited all 74
coalition MKs and their spouses to his Jerusalem residence for a festive
pre-Rosh Hashana toast on Monday evening. He is expected to be grilled when he
meets on Tuesday night with a group of veteran Likud central committee hawks
from the Tagar movement.
Likud hawk MK Danny Danon condemned the prime
minister’s leftward shift.
“If the public wanted a Palestinian state
within a year, they would have voted for Kadima and not Likud,” Danon
On the other hand, Deputy Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Orit
Noked (Labor) praised the prime minister at a Shabbat cultural event in
“Netanyahu will be like Rabin,” Noked said. “I believe that
Bibi has made a decision in his heart to initiate big
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, on a visit to
Cyprus, said on Friday he was not sure “emotional conflicts” such as Jerusalem,
refugees and settlements could be resolved. Rather the focus should be on
“security and economic issues,” he said.
Lieberman, who has voluntarily
sidelined himself from the discussions, is expected to say more on the matter at
a Rosh Hashana toast he will host at an Israel Beiteinu event on
Erekat’s comments came as the PA continued to send to
Palestinians conflicting messages about the peace process.
its earlier promises, the PA has not yet addressed the Palestinian public with
the same message it has been dispatching to Israelis with the help of US
funding. The PA leadership seems to be more concerned with defending its
decision to enter into direct talks with Israel than to convince the
Palestinians to support the renewed negotiations.
Last week, a PA
official said the PA leadership was planning to launch a US-financed campaign to
persuade Palestinians to support the peace process.
However, the campaign
has thus far been restricted to addressing Israelis by presenting a number of
top PA leaders as Israel’s “partners for peace.”
PA negotiators who were
in Washington last week for the launch of the direct talks spoke with some
optimism about “understandings” and “agreements” that were achieved in meetings
between the two sides.
However, other Palestinians representing the PA
sent a completely different message to the Palestinian public: Israel does not
This message has over the past few days become the main theme
in the PA-controlled media’s reporting. According to this message, the PA
leadership was forced to agree to direct talks only because of heavy pressure
and threats from the US administration, the EU and some Arab
The PA media highlighted statements made by Abbas in
Washington to the effect that continued construction in West Bank
and east Jerusalem neighborhoods would lead to the collapse of the peace
Abbas’s decision to negotiate with Israel unconditionally has
drawn strong and unprecedented criticism from almost all Palestinian
The decision has also exacerbated tensions between the
PA and Hamas, which has accused Abbas and his team of betraying the
interests of the Palestinians and called for overthrowing his government
With a few exceptions, the PA-funded newspapers have been
ignoring the voices of the Palestinian opposition to the talks. They
been ignoring the PA’s massive security crackdown on Hamas sympathizers
West Bank – an operation that began following last Tuesday’s shooting
that killed four Israelis near Kiryat Arba and that has seen the arrest
than 300 Palestinians.
Political analysts and newspaper commentators
affiliated with the PA continued to raise doubts regarding Israel’s true
intentions vis-a-vis the peace process.
“Those who were expecting the
Washington summit to bring surprises have been shocked,” said Hani
political analyst who works for the PA’s Ministry of
“Netanyahu’s speech and statements have shown that the talks
are being launched with no hope, because they were not preceded by a
settlement construction. The talks that were launched in Washington
anything new, because Israel is in full control of the
Another PA-affiliated analyst, Adel Abdel Rahman, wrote in
the Ramallah-based Al-Hayat al-Jadida daily that “despite Netanyahu’s
statements about his desire to achieve peace with the Palestinians and
Likud is capable of making peace, the reality suggests the opposite.
measures on the ground emphasize that Israel and its right-wing radical
government is not prepared for peace and the two-state solution.”
writer said that if Netanyahu was really serious about making peace, he
stop demanding that the PA leadership recognize Israel as a Jewish
should withdraw to the pre-1967 lines, including from east
Al-Quds, the largest Palestinian daily, said Palestinians were
very skeptical about Israel’s intentions, especially in light of the
government’s measures on the ground.
Referring to the approval of new
housing projects in Givat Ze’ev and Gilo, the semi-official newspaper,
reflects the views of the PA leadership, said that such “developments
Netanyahu, who talked in Washington about painful concessions for peace,
still far from seriously moving forward with the peace
Meanwhile, President Shimon Peres met over the weekend with
Arab League Secretary- General Amr Moussa in Cernobbio, Italy, on the
of an economic meeting.
Peres called the negotiations in Washington last
week a “promising” start.
Moussa, according to an Associated Press
report, predicted this would be the last round of talks between Israel
Palestinians and that the Arabs were ready for full peace with Israel in
exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from the territories, including east
Gil Hoffman contributed to this