'Israeli escalation aims to kill talks'

“It’s obvious Israeli government does not want peace,” says Abbas spokesman.

By
March 22, 2010 02:49
2 minute read.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

mahmoud abbas 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
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The Palestinian Authority on Sunday stepped up its condemnations of Israel and accused the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of working to “destroy” US efforts to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The PA claimed that Israel was increasing tensions in the region by increasing its “attacks” on Palestinians so that it could divert attention from the international community’s demand for a total freeze of settlement construction.

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However, PA officials in Ramallah said they didn’t rule out the possibility that indirect talks with Israel would be resumed in the coming weeks. The officials said that in recent days the PA leadership has received “positive messages” from Washington regarding Israel’s plans to build new homes in Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.

“Apparently, Netanyahu has accepted our demand that the issue of Jerusalem be discussed during the indirect talks that are supposed to take place in a few weeks,” said a senior PA official. “If true, this is a positive development because Netanyahu had so far refused to put the issue of Jerusalem on the table.”

Another top PA official said that the US administration has told the PA leadership that the Netanyahu government has agreed to release a significant number of Fatah prisoners from Israeli jails as a “confidence-building measure” and “goodwill gesture” to the Palestinians ahead of the talks.

The official said that the PA leadership was waiting to hear from US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who is scheduled to hold talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan on Monday, whether Netanyahu is “serious” about the reported gestures.

“In any case, we will return to the talks only after we receive assurances from the Americans that the construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank would be completely halted,” he added.

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The PA, meanwhile, warned that Israel’s “escalation” was threatening to destroy US efforts to persuade the Palestinians to launch the indirect talks.

Referring to the killing of four Palestinian men by IDF soldiers in the Nablus area in the past 48 hours, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said that the Netanyahu government was “sending a message to the US and the Quartet, as well as the Arabs, in response to demands that it halt settlement construction.” He said that the latest escalation was “deplorable and unacceptable” because it would foil all efforts to resume the Middle East peace process.

“It’s obvious that the Israeli government does not want peace,” Abu Rudaineh said. “Nor does it want negotiations [with the Palestinians].”

He also condemned the killings and Israel’s plans to build 1,600 new homes in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood as “provocative,” adding that without practical US pressure on Israel the peace talks would not be resumed.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad warned that Israel’s actions on the ground were threatening to destroy his government’s achievements. He also called on the international community to provide the Palestinians with protection.

The PLO Executive Committee, a key decision-making body dominated by Abbas loyalists, accused Israel of seeking to “reignite the region with blood and fire.” The committee claimed that Israel’s actions were part of a “conspiracy” aimed at creating confusion in the region so that the Netanyahu government could avoid fulfilling its commitments in accordance with the peace process.

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