Chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat denied Thursday night reports claiming he had resigned. Earlier, Palestinian sources told the Ma'an news agency that Erekat and his team had submitted their resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas. As of now, next week's meetings between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are expected to take place as scheduled.
According to the Palestinian sources, the negotiators submitted their resignation in light of Israel's "lack of commitment" to the peace process and the continued construction beyond the Green Line. The Israeli government recently announced plans to build more than 1,000 housing units in east Jerusalem and in the West Bank settlements.
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The report on Erekat's resignation came just days before US Secretary of State John Kerry's expected arrival in the region.
Sources who are familiar with the peace talks told Ynet that Erekat's intention to resign was revealed on Wednesday, but they claimed the move is merely part of his attempt to increase pressure on Israel ahead of Kerry's visit.
PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yusef denied that Erekat and his team had resigned. He said the issue had not even come up during the committee's meeting in Ramallah on Thursday.
A Palestinian source who is familiar with the talks told Ynet that Erekat sensed that the Palestinian leadership was being criticized by the public due to the fact that Ramallah was not threatening to suspend the peace talks due to Israel's continued construction beyond the Green Line.
The US State Department said Thursday that Kerry will travel to the region next week. During the visit, from November 3 until the 11th, America's top diplomat will meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials to discuss the situation in the region and the Iranian nuclear crisis. Kerry will also visit Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
On Wednesday the Obama Administration condemned Israel's decision to build more housing units beyond the Green Line. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki responded to Israel’s announcement regarding the construction of 1,500 units in east Jerusalem saying “We do not consider continued settlement activity or east Jerusalem construction to be steps that create a positive environment for the negotiations.”
"At no time in the course of pursuing negotiations toward a two-state solution have we condoned settlement activity or east Jerusalem construction,” she added.
Psaki stressed the importance of the peace talks and the need to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. She said the release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel was a difficult but necessary step to help ensure the success of talks. There are steps that have been taken by both sides in that regard. The talks are continuing, and they – both sides remain committed to the nine-month time frame.”
She noted that Kerry “has expressed his concerns and his issue with settlements and construction in east Jerusalem on many times in the past to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I’m sure he will in the future, as well. But the reason why we want to have talks and the reason why it’s so important they move forward is to resolve these types of issues.”
You can contact Elior Levy, Ynet's Palestinian Affairs Correspondent, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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