PA negotiator: US chances slim to revive peace process

Nabil Sha’ath says US secretary of state won't rekindle talks unless he pressures Israel to halt settlement activity.

May 29, 2013 19:02
3 minute read.
President Shimon Peres, US Secretary of State John Kerry and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Peres Abbas and Kerry at WEC 370. (photo credit: World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell)

US Secretary of State John Kerry won’t succeed in rekindling peace talks unless he pressures Israel to halt settlement activity and accept a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath said Wednesday.

“Kerry is still unable to put pressure on the Israeli government to meet its obligations under the terms of the peace process,” said Shaath, a member of the Fatah Central Committee.

He spoke of his frustration with Israel in an interview on the Palestinian Authority’s Voice of Palestine radio station.

“It’s obvious following the recent meetings in Jordan that there is no chance [of resuming the peace talks with Israel], Sha’ath said.

“This is not because Kerry does not want, but because he is unable to exert pressure on Israel. Israel is responsible for obstructing the peace process.”

In contrast, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke of his willingness to resume talks, which have been largely frozen since December 2008.

“We applaud Secretary Kerry’s efforts. I stand ready to resume negotiations immediately, and I think there’s an abiding interest to achieve a secure peace. And we’re prepared to get on with it,” Netanyahu said on Wednesday when he met in Jerusalem with US Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Menendez told The Jerusalem Post that Kerry’s efforts have been “extraordinary.” He cautioned, however, “there is on so much the secretary can do to prepare a table for people to sit down and negotiate. “Only the leaders can make the decision to negotiate,” Menendez added.

Out of respect for Kerry’s efforts, both Israel and the Palestinians have tried to refrain from actions that would inflame their relationship and make direct talks more difficult to achieve.

Israel has refused to freeze settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem, but at the same time, has made efforts to temporarily halt the advancement or publication of building plans.

A spokesman for the Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel said that a plan to publish tenders for 797 homes in the Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo was frozen.

“All the documents are plans are prepared and ready, but we have no authorization,” he said.

“Everything is frozen,” the spokesman added as he spoke with The Jerusalem Post after a Channel 10 report about the homes.

The spokesman dismissed a portion of the report, which spoke of some 300 to 700 new homes in the Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot.

Tenders for these plans were issued over a year ago, he said. But recently the project was awarded to two contractors, who have received notification of the matter.

Kerry, who visited the region from Thursday to Monday, met three times with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, twice with Netanyahu, and a number of times with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is charge of negotiations for Israel.

Kerry has tried to find an acceptable formula to re-launch negotiations, including holding another round of exploratory conversations under the auspices of the Jordanians.

Sha’ath rejected the idea of these “exploratory” talks.

“We tried such talks in the past and we won’t go in this direction again because the negotiations failed,” adding that “there was a real feeling that there is no progress in the peace process because of Israeli intransigence.”

Palestinian political analyst Hani Habib said that Kerry’s decision to focus on economic development in a $4 billion plan to invest in private Palestinian businesses shows that in the Palestinian territories “the economic option is a way of compensating for political failure.” He and other Palestinians have dismissed Kerry’s plan to boost the Palestinian economy so long as it’s not part of a political solution.

Meanwhile, the PLO Executive Committee, a key decision-making body, on Tuesday night decided to form a committee to study future options if the Israeli government continues to refuse halting construction in the settlements.

The committee stressed the need to “stick by the clear and declared Palestinian position toward the resumption of peace talks with Israel, especially with regards to a full cessation of settlement construction, including Jerusalem, and recognition of the 1967 border” as the basis for a two-state solution.

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