(photo credit: AP)
On the eve of the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the
Palestinians, a row has erupted in the Palestinian Authority over who should
head its negotiating team.
Sources in Ramallah said that the dispute
broke out between Saeb Erekat, the head of the PLO’s Negotiations Department,
and Nabil Sha’ath, a former PA foreign minister who holds the Foreign Affairs
portfolio in Fatah.
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Meanwhile, Erekat denied reports about a sharp
dispute between the Palestinians and Israel over determining the agenda of the
direct talks. The two sides agreed on what issues the talks would deal with
about two weeks ago in Washington, he said.
He said the agenda would
include all the final-status issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements,
borders, water and security.
According to the sources in Ramallah, both
Erekat and Sha’ath see themselves as head of the Palestinian negotiating team.
Each one has also asked PA President Mahmoud Abbas to assign him as head of the
The rivalry comes as the Palestinians prepare for Tuesday’s meeting
with the Israeli team in the Egyptian resort of Sharm e-Sheikh.
said on Sunday that Abbas had entrusted him with heading the Palestinian
delegation to the talks. He said that Sha’ath, whom he described as a “dear
brother,” would serve as member of the delegation.
He said the same
Palestinian officials who attended the launch of the direct talks in Washington
on September 1 and 2 would be part of the negotiating team and called on the
Palestinians to avoid preoccupation with “marginal” issues such as who would
head the delegation.
“We must focus on the core issues such as Jerusalem,
refugees, settlers and the release of all the Palestinian prisoners from Israeli
jails,” he stressed.
Erekat added that the talks would not make any
progress if Israel decided to end the moratorium on settlement construction
later this month.
Sha’ath also denied that he and Erekat were involved in
a power struggle, adding that Abbas would lead the negotiations.
all nonsense,” Sha’ath said. “There is no power struggle whatsoever. We
are all united in our position.”