Palestinian factions see resumption of peace talks as 'political suicide'

Several groups slam Palestinian Authority for agreeing to resume peace negotiations with Israel, while PLO, Fatah officials say they knew nothing of US Secretary of State John Kerry's offer to bring PA back to the table.

Supporters wait for release of prisoners near Ofer prison (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Supporters wait for release of prisoners near Ofer prison
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Several Palestinian groups on Saturday criticized the Palestinian Authority for agreeing to resume peace talks with Israel, while PLO and Fatah officials said they knew nothing about what US Secretary of State John Kerry had offered the PA leadership to bring it back to the negotiating table.
On Friday night, Kerry announced from Amman that the peace talks would resume soon.
His announcement came immediately after he flew unexpectedly from Amman to Ramallah for talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Kerry’s surprise meeting with Abbas came one day after PLO and Fatah officials who met in Ramallah voiced opposition to the secretary of state’s proposal to resume talks unless Israel accepted the PA’s demand for a full cessation of settlement construction, the release of Palestinian prisoners and recognition of the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution.
The officials quoted Abbas as telling them that Kerry had refused to provide the PA leadership with written guarantees that Israel would accept its demands.
Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, announced late on Friday that chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat would soon head to Washington for talks with an Israeli representative, under Kerry’s auspices.
Abu Rudaineh said that “as a result of meetings and discussions between Kerry and Abbas over the past few days, progress has been achieved, paving the way for agreement on the principles that allow for the resumption of the negotiations [with Israel].”
The Palestinian spokesman did not indicate how the progress was achieved. However, he said that “certain details still require finding a solution for them.”
Nabil Amr, a senior Fatah official and former PA minister, said the way the PA leadership dealt with the issue of resuming negotiating with Israel was “frustrating.”
He added: “Although what Kerry achieved was expected, the way the Palestinian leadership handled the return to the negotiating table over the past two days was frustrating.”
Amr said that the Palestinians were suffering from a “leadership crisis more than a crisis in the policy adopted by the Palestinian leadership, which excels in hardline talk but eventually succumbs to the fait accompli.”
The Palestinian National Initiative, a political movement headed by former presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouti, announced that it was opposed to the resumption of the peace talks with Israel “without clear and specific terms of reference.”
The movement said that any negotiations should be based on pre-1967 lines and a full cessation of settlement construction “in all Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem.”
The movement warned that conducting negotiations while settlement construction was continuing “means that Israel would exploit them as a cover for its expansionist settlement projects.”
It said that there was no peace partner in Israel because the government was busy building in the settlements and creating new facts on the ground.
“The alternative is popular resistance, boycotting and imposing sanctions on Israel and restoring Palestinian national unity,” the movement added.
Hamas spokesmen condemned the PA for “succumbing to American extortion and complying with Israel’s demands.”
The PA’s decision was a “big gift to the extremist occupation government and a loss for the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
Another Hamas official, Salah Bardaweel, warned the PA leadership against “falling in the quagmire of negotiations.”
He said that the resumption of the negotiations unconditionally and under Kerry’s terms was designed to “liquidate the Palestinian cause in return for secondary privileges for Palestinian Authority leaders.”
Yusef Rizka, political adviser to the Hamas prime minister, said resuming the negotiations under the terms of Israel and the US was tantamount to “treason.” Rizka noted that the PLO factions had expressed their opposition to the resumption of the peace talks.
He said that the outcome of the negotiations would be considered by Palestinians as null and void.
Hassan Khraisheh, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told the Quds Press news agency that Abbas was committing “political suicide” by agreeing to return to the negotiating table.
Khraisheh accused Abbas of abandoning his previous demands for Israeli recognition of the pre-1967 lines and a full cessation of settlement construction as a precondition for resuming the talks, in return for “bribes,” including the release of a number of prisoners, economic benefits and work permits for Palestinians.
Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Peoples’ (Communist) Party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) also voiced strong opposition to Abbas’s decision to resume the peace talks.
“Palestine does not belong to one political faction,” said Nafez Azzam, a senior Islamic Jihad official. “The Palestinian- Israeli conflict would not end unless the rights are restored to their owners.”
Bassam Salhi, head of the Palestinian Peoples’ Party, said the US was not an honest broker because it was biased in favor of Israel. He said his group was opposed to the resumption of any talks that are not based on a freeze of settlement construction and Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines.
The PFLP denounced the resumption of the talks as “political suicide,” while the DFLP said Kerry’s proposals were “insufficient,” especially since he had failed to present written assurances to the Palestinians.