The recent statements by Nabil Shaath, senior member of the Palestinian Authority negotiating team, and others, promising a return to negotiations if Israel agrees to Palestinian preconditions and commits to “negotiate on the basis of the 1967 borders,” and to freeze settlement-building, constitute a typical example of Palestinian political manipulation, duplicity and sheer falsehood.

Nowhere in the history of the peace process negotiations is there any commitment to the “1967 borders.”

The opposite is in fact the case. All the agreements between Israel and the PLO, as well as the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, base themselves in their preambular paragraphs on the call by the international community, in UN Security Council resolution 242 of 1967, for “secure and recognized boundaries.”

Together with Egypt and Jordan, in their respective peace treaties with Israel, the Palestinian leadership in all its agreements with Israel has repeatedly committed and agreed to this formula, which basically means that the pre-1967 military Armistice Demarcation Lines – never intended to become borders – as well as any other pre-1949 lines, would be replaced by agreed-upon borders answering the Security Council criteria of being secure and recognized.

The fact that Palestinian leaders such as Shaath, Saeb Erekat and Mahmoud Abbas are attempting to manipulate the legal and historic record by constantly repeating their demand that Israel commit, in advance, to the “1967 borders” should be firmly rejected by all those that were involved in the negotiations on the various agreements. The Palestinians know full well that borders are one of the issues still on the negotiating table. Such a demand has no basis whatsoever in law or in fact.

Abbas, Shaath and Erekat, as well as the US and EU leaders that counter- signed the Oslo accords as witnesses, in addition to Jordan and Egypt, all know full well that this Palestinian precondition is patently without any basis in law. The fact that they keep repeating it is nothing less than utter duplicity, lack of good faith and abuse of the good faith of the international community.

In a similar vein, the other Palestinian precondition, that Israel freeze settlement activity, also has no grounds or basis in the agreements between the PA and Israel.

Israel has never, in any of its agreements with the Palestinians, undertaken to freeze settlement activity in territory it continues to administer pursuant to the agreements with the Palestinians.

To the contrary, the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement (commonly termed Oslo II) specifically permits, in Civil Affairs Annex III, planning, zoning and construction by each respective side in the areas under its jurisdiction in Judea and Samaria – Palestinians in Areas A and B, and Israel in Area C.

The issue of settlements is one of the agreed-upon final-status negotiation issues, together with borders, refugees, water, Jerusalem and security.

The Palestinians have thus agreed and undertaken to negotiate this issue with Israel, and they cannot now unilaterally remove it from the negotiating table and turn it into a separate and independent precondition for further negotiation. In so doing they are undermining the agreements, and in trying to recruit the support of the international community, they are bypassing their commitment to negotiate the issue with Israel.

As such they are deliberately misleading and manipulating the international community.

Among its commitments pursuant to the Oslo accords, Israel is committed to negotiate the issue of settlements with the Palestinians. No precondition is needed to activate this commitment other than a return to bona fide negotiations.

Continued settlement activity pending the outcome of permanentstatus negotiation, whether politically prudent or not, is neither a violation of the Oslo accords nor in itself a violation of international law. It is a bilateral negotiating issue with the Palestinians, nothing more, nothing less.

The sooner the Palestinians cease trying to unilaterally undermine, manipulate and bypass the negotiating process, and give up their preconditions, the sooner the issue of settlements will be settled and thereby removed from the agenda.

It is high time that this be made clear to all.

The author, former legal adviser of the Foreign Ministry and ambassador to Canada, participated in the negotiation of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.

He is presently director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He recently served as a member of the Edmond Levy Commission to examine the issue of construction in Judea and Samaria.

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