PA denies talk of leasing W.Bank land to Israel in future

Erekat calls report of possible deal a ‘test balloon’ by Israelis; Abbas, Palestinians would not be prepared to discuss such an idea.

Erekat 311 (photo credit: AP)
Erekat 311
(photo credit: AP)
The Palestinian Authority on Monday denied a report that talked about the possibility of leasing West Bank land to Israel.
The report, which appeared in a pan-Arab newspaper based in London, claimed that the idea of leasing the Jordan Valley to Israel had been put forward by the US administration.
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Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat dismissed the report as a “test balloon” by Israel, which, he said, was seeking to establish facts on the ground and create confusion about peace proposals.
Neither PA President Mahmoud Abbas nor the Palestinians would be prepared to discuss such an idea, Erekat said.
“Palestinian territories can’t be leased to anyone, and they are the private and exclusive property of the Palestinian people,” he told the Palestinian Maan news agency.
Erekat said the PA was also unaware of reports that Washington was considering replacing its special Middle East envoy, George Mitchell. Erekat said that this was an internal American affair and expressed hope that the US administration would step up its involvement in the Middle East peace process.
Erekat said he did not rule out the possibility that the “right-wing media” in Israel was behind such leaks, in an effort to “destabilize” the peace talks and undermine the US role in the process.
In another development, Hamas and Fatah said on Monday that they had agreed to resume “reconciliation talks” in Damascus on November 9.
The two sides were scheduled to meet in the Syrian capital last week. However, the meeting was called off following an altercation between Abbas and Syrian President Bashar Assad during the recent Arab League summit in Libya.
Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official involved in the talks with Hamas, said the decision to resume the talks in Damascus came after the PA and Syria agreed to settle the dispute that began in Libya.
Ahmed added that Fatah and Hamas would try to reach agreement on an Egyptian initiative for solving the crisis. He said that the two parties had yet to agree on security-related matters in the Gaza Strip, the release of Hamas and Fatah prisoners being held in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and holding parliamentary and presidential elections.
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said Fatah did not want to end its dispute with the Islamist movement. He said that Hamas would never follow in the footsteps of Fatah and act against Palestinians who launched terrorist attacks against Israel.