Abbas: Palestinian peace negotiators resign over lack of progress

PA president suggests talks will continue despite resignations; Israel unfazed, says it continues pattern of 'brinkmanship.'

Abbas looking unhappy 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Abbas looking unhappy 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
The Palestinian negotiating team with Israel has resigned in protest over continued construction in settlements and east Jerusalem neighborhoods, Palestinian sources confirmed Wednesday.
The sources told the Palestinian daily Al-Quds that PA President Mahmoud Abbas cut short his visit to Saudi Arabia and returned to Ramallah to discuss with PLO and Fatah leaders the latest developments surrounding the talks with Israel.
The Palestinian negotiating team consists of Saeb Erekat and Muhammad Shtayyeh.
Shtayyeh’s office confirmed that the two negotiators had tendered their resignations to Abbas 10 days ago.
“We still haven’t received a reply [from Abbas] to our request to quit,” the office said.
In an interview with the Egyptian TV station CBC, Abbas confirmed that the members of the negotiating team had resigned. However, he did not say whether he would accept or reject the resignations.
“We can’t say that there has been any progress [in the talks],” Abbas said. “We will wait for nine months and afterwards we are free to do what we want.”
Erekat said Wednesday that Israel was “declaring the end of the peace process” unless it backtracked on plans to pursue settlement construction.
Erekat said that he has informed the US, Russia, the UN and the Arab League that the latest Israeli plans would mean that Israel has officially ended the negotiations and the peace process.
Israeli officials did not seem particularly fazed by the resignations.
One official said it was clear that the Palestinians were engaging in negotiation “brinkmanship,” and that over the years this pattern has repeated itself on numerous occasions.
The officials said that often when there is a crisis – either real or artificial – the Palestinian negotiators will resign, or threaten to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, or say they are abandoning the two-state solution.
“This is the way the Palestinians negotiate, and we are familiar with it,” the official said. “Unfortunately, this is the standard.”
The official said any crisis over settlement construction at this time was an artificial crisis, even in light of the Construction and Housing Ministry’s intent, rescinded at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s intervention on Tuesday, to begin preparatory and preliminary work toward issuing initial tenders for the building of some 24,000 units beyond the Green Line.
“Nothing happened on Tuesday,” the official said, “It was all smoke and mirrors. The prime minister disassociated himself from it, and the government made no decisions. This crisis really is artificial.”
Nevertheless, the PA again on Wednesday called on the US and other members of the Quartet – the UN, Russia and the EU – to exert pressure on Israel to stop building in the settlements and east Jerusalem neighborhoods in order to save the peace talks.
In response to reports that the government has approved plans to build housing units in these areas, the PA Foreign Ministry accused Israel of continuing to “steal land, Judaize Jerusalem and displace Palestinians.”
The PA ministry warned that “targeting of the Aksa Mosque and house demolitions would prompt the Palestinian leadership to go to the UN and its institutions and organizations to request international protection for the ‘State of Palestine’ and its lands and people.”