Ramat Shlomo construction 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Palestinian Authority is expecting US Middle East envoy George Mitchell to bring assurances that Israel will cancel plans to build homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
PA officials said over the weekend that without such assurances, the PA leadership would “find it very hard” to resume any form of talks with Israel.
“We hope Mitchell will bring with him the assurances we want,” said Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior aide to Abbas. “We want assurances that Israel will cancel plans to build 1,600 new homes [in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood] and that Israel would not continue with its arbitrary policies.”
Abdel Rahim said that if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu really wanted, he could cancel the Ramat Shlomo project, “the same way he instructed Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, under pressure from the Americans, to cancel a similar housing plan in Silwan.”
He said that if the US wants the indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians to be launched in the near future, it should see to it that Israel halts all settlement construction, including in east Jerusalem.
“We won’t allow Israel to use the indirect talks as a cover for expanding settlements, confiscating more Palestinian lands, demolishing houses and arresting and starving Palestinians,” the senior PA official added. “We call on the international community to stop Israel from pursuing its expansionist and arrogant policy of settlement construction, because it will destroy the peace process and pose a threat to the entire world’s security.”
The government does not consider any part of Jerusalem a settlement.
Nabil Sha’ath, a former PA minister who is closely associated with Abbas, was skeptical that when Mitchell returns to the region in the coming week, he will carry any assurances from the US administration to the Palestinians regarding the issue of settlements or the Ramat Shlomo plan.
“I doubt if the Americans will give us written assurances,” Sha’ath told the Bethlehem-based Maan news agency. “As usual, they will only urge us to return to the negotiations.”
Sha’ath said that even Israel’s decision to freeze settlement housing starts for 10 months was nothing but “deception.”
Palestinians were not born yesterday, he said. “The settlement
activities never stopped, even as we were negotiating for the past 18
years with Israel. So don’t deceive us now by telling us that there’s
no construction going on.”