The top negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), warned on Sunday that the region would suffer greatly in the event that the upcoming Annapolis peace conference failed.
"If the summit fails – frustration will win out over everything else and it will have a negative affect on the region. I cannot predict exactly what will happen, but it may lead to more wars.
"I warn now against failure there, which will open the door for extremists and extremism – and that door will be very difficult to close," said Qureia at a conference held by Meretz activists.
Qureia said that the key to the success of the conference lay in reaching an agreement that would serve as the basis for any final accords, including a clear timetable.
Beilin, Qureia and Cohen at the conference in Tel Aviv (Photo: Yaron Brenner)
His adamant insistence on the establishment of a timetable came in response to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's comments earlier on Sunday in which he said no detailed timetable would be made for the negotiations.
The Palestinians, Qureia said, will not settle for an agreement they deemed unfair. "We are not as weak as some in Israel would like to think. We will continue to work diligently to ensure the success of the conference. I came here to say that our hands are outstretched in peace and our hearts are open despite the suffering. I have come to express the hope of my people that peace is still possible.
"But we need support from Israel, not with kisses but with the evacuation of settlements. That is the real challenge."
The former PA prime minister also stressed the importance of implementing the first stage of the road map. "If we do this, then we will be in good shape. Within a week we will deploy Palestinian troops into Nablus – but if Israel tries to kill someone in Nablus or conquer Nablus – this will create a problem."
The Annapolis conference is an opportunity that may not return, he said, "we face many challenges and we stand on the verge of either success or failure."
Qureia said he wished to say to the Israeli public that this is a historic moment that cannot be missed and "that we refuse to miss. The pain and suffering have not driven away our hope for peace and we are determined to reach an honest and viable peace.
"We need wisdom and courage to seize this opportunity. Chances have been missed in the past and the price of missing this one will be heavy.
"But we are not starting from square one, we are beginning the negotiations with a far better
understanding of our hopes and illusions – elements we were lacking 15 years ago," he said.
Qureia also noted that the negotiations enjoy the support of the international community and the Arab world.