Israel: PA dodging direct talks by negotiating via Quartet

Quartet representatives expected back in the region next week to push direct Israel-Palestinian talks.

December 6, 2011 03:24
2 minute read.
Saeb Erekat

Erekat talking with hands in air 311. (photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)


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Quartet representatives are expected back in the region next week to try and push forward direct Palestinian-Israeli talks. Jerusalem, though, pushed back Monday against the Palestinian claims that it had put forward comprehensive proposals on territory and security and that Israel was refusing to do so.

Yoaz Hendel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s communications director, said Israel accepted the framework for returning to the talks put forth by the Quartet in September, because that framework called for direct negotiations.

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That statement, and a statement after the Quartet representatives‘ last visit to the region on October 26, called for the sides to present comprehensive proposals within 90 days. While the Palestinians interpreted that to mean that the sides were to present the proposals to the Quartet, which would then bring it to the other side, Israel interpreted it to mean that the sides would present the proposals to each other 90 days after the direct negotiations started.

“The Palestinians are playing the blame game,” Hendel said. “They are presenting proposals to the Quartet, instead of to Israel, with their objective being to avoid direct talks and instead do everything through the Quartet.”

Hendel’s comments came just a few days after US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta chided both sides by saying it was time to “get to the damn table.”

Hendel said Israel had numerous ideas and papers to exchange with the Palestinians, but wanted to present and discuss it with them directly.

“If they want an agreement with Israel and not the Quartet, they should be talking to Israel.”

In recent days Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has been casting Israel as the obstacle to forward movement because it had not presented the Quartet with any proposals.

In a related development, Jeffrey Feltman, the State Department’s assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, held talks in Jerusalem Monday with Palestinian officials, and was scheduled to hold talks Tuesday with Israeli officials. One diplomatic source said Feltman – who went to Jordan before coming to Israel – was focusing more on regional issues, rather than Israeli-Palestinian issues.

Both the region and the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, however, were discussed Monday in Brussels at the annual EU-Israel political dialogue. Israel was represented at those talks by Rafi Schutz, the Foreign Ministry‘ s deputy director-general for Europe, and the EU was represented by Christian Berger, head of the North African and Middle East department in the EU’s External Action Service.

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