Erekat or Sha’ath – who will the chief PA negotiator be?

Saeb Erekat and Nabil Shaath are said to be jockeying for head position; Erekat claims he has already received Abbas appointment.

Erekat 311 (photo credit: AP)
Erekat 311
(photo credit: AP)
On the eve of the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a row has erupted in the Palestinian Authority over who should head its negotiating team.
Sources in Ramallah said that the dispute broke out between Saeb Erekat, the head of the PLO’s Negotiations Department, and Nabil Sha’ath, a former PA foreign minister who holds the Foreign Affairs portfolio in Fatah.


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Meanwhile, Erekat denied reports about a sharp dispute between the Palestinians and Israel over determining the agenda of the direct talks. The two sides agreed on what issues the talks would deal with about two weeks ago in Washington, he said.
He said the agenda would include all the final-status issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders, water and security.
According to the sources in Ramallah, both Erekat and Sha’ath see themselves as head of the Palestinian negotiating team. Each one has also asked PA President Mahmoud Abbas to assign him as head of the team.
The rivalry comes as the Palestinians prepare for Tuesday’s meeting with the Israeli team in the Egyptian resort of Sharm e-Sheikh.
Erekat said on Sunday that Abbas had entrusted him with heading the Palestinian delegation to the talks. He said that Sha’ath, whom he described as a “dear brother,” would serve as member of the delegation.
He said the same Palestinian officials who attended the launch of the direct talks in Washington on September 1 and 2 would be part of the negotiating team and called on the Palestinians to avoid preoccupation with “marginal” issues such as who would head the delegation.
“We must focus on the core issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlers and the release of all the Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails,” he stressed.
Erekat added that the talks would not make any progress if Israel decided to end the moratorium on settlement construction later this month.
Sha’ath also denied that he and Erekat were involved in a power struggle, adding that Abbas would lead the negotiations.
“This is all nonsense,” Sha’ath said. “There is no power struggle whatsoever. We are all united in our position.”