Talks in current climate a 'waste of time'

Talks in current climate

Former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) dismissed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's declaration of a 10-month moratorium in the settlements as a "brazen ploy to buy time," rejecting a return to talks as a "waste of time" during a speech to a conference here on Monday. Speaking from 18 years of experience in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and "aware of minute deals," Qurei said "all the negotiations we have pursued were being exploited by Israel to buy time and kick sand in the eyes while attempting to impose new facts on the ground, particularly with settlements, separating Jerusalem from Palestine, and with the separation wall as a unilateral solution making it impossible to reach an acceptable, fair, balanced and just peace that we can accept and market." In a harsh and completely unconciliatory speech at a conference on the Middle East organized by Ria Novosti, the Russian News & Information Agency, and the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, Qurei said that from Oslo to Annapolis "we see a continuation of the use of the language of force [by Israel] in order to impose a peace settlement which can only be described as surrender." Rebuffing calls for the Palestinians to return immediately to negotiations, Qurei said, "The negotiations are not a goal, they are a means to an end. Is the environment conducive? We have negotiated for 18 years. Yes, there has been some progress, but we have come to point where negotiations are a way of wasting time to change reality on the ground. If the negotiations do not include the explicit goal of reaching a just settlement we do not need negotiations for negotiations sake." PA President Mahmoud Abbas's political adviser Nimer Hammad was equally tough in his tone, calling for the convening of a peace conference in Moscow, in an apparent effort to get the international community more heavily involved in the diplomatic process and impose a solution. "If both sides are not able to solve the conflict then the international community has to do so because this really affects the stability around the world," he said. Rejecting bilateral negotiations, Hammad said that thinking that the sides themselves could solve the conflict "has no basis," and that Israel just wanted negotiations to buy time and institutionalize changes on the ground. The Palestinians, he said, don't believe that Israeli-Palestinian talks will lead to a solution. The responsibility, therefore, "devolves to international community, the Quartet, not just one country." Hammad said that the "Jewish lobby" in Washington was precluding the US from acting as an honest broker. "What is required is real international participation, all partners of the Quartet. Israel can't say it doesn't want international participation - leave us alone to solve the conflict." Hammad characterized Netanyahu's demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state as "an obstacle that really complicates matters," and that Israel had no right to make this demand since the country itself hasn't even been able to solve the 'Who is a Jew' issue." "The demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state while Israel has not managed to define who is a Jew - this constitutes an obstacle that complicates issues. If we continue this way we will head towards more extremism," he said. Hammad bewailed that "racist decisions are made in the Israeli Knesset and then Israel brings up claims of anti-Semitism. The world has been very generous with Israel, it has received more money and more arms than any other country in the world. What is the result of the spoiling of Israel? Israel believes that it is above international law."