Photo: AFP
PA negotiator Ahmed Qureia leaving the talks in Wednesday
Photo: AFP

Palestinians slam Jerusalem construction as talks resume

With Qassam barrages falling on Sderot and a hotly contested Israeli housing project underway in Jerusalem, Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams rely heavily on Annapolis momentum to overcome obstacles towards permanent agreement

Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams met in Jerusalem on Wednesday for their first official meeting towards a permanent peace agreement since 2001. The sides agreed on an intensive series of meetings at the Annapolis peace conference in late November and had met beforehand several times to draft a joint statement outlining their aspirations.   


But the atmosphere this afternoon was far from encouraging, as Palestinian officials voiced their increasing outrage with Israel's announcement of a new housing construction project in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem.


The Israelis on their part, admonished the Palestinians for failing to curb Qassam rocket attacks from Gaza or reign in terror attacks carried out by members of the Palestinian Authority's security forces.


The meeting took on an unusually clandestine nature after Palestinian officials asked their Israeli counterparts to keep the meeting out of the limelight.


Originally slated to take place at noon in Jerusalem's famous King David Hotel with the press in attendance, the meeting was abruptly moved last night to the Mount Zion Hotel. The Palestinians said that following Tuesday evening's IDF operation in Khan Younis, in which six Palestinians were killed, the original festive venue was no longer appropriate.


The full staffs of both teams attended the meeting, with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni leading the Israeli delegation and Palestinian Negotiations Chairman Ahmed Qureia representing the PA.


The Har Homa hurdle

The discussion centered on Palestinian claims that Israel is continuing to expand West Bank settlements and the Har Homa housing project – which Israel says does not violate the road map agreement as the neighborhood is within Jerusalem's municipal boundaries.


Livni said the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly failed to act against the terrorism emanating from its territory - both in Gaza and the West Bank. She also pointed to the murder of Israeli settler Ido Zoldan by Palestinian security officers in November.


The two sides agreed to focus on preparing for next week's conference of donor countries in Paris. The Palestinians hope to raise at $5.5 billion to build institutions in the Palestinian Authority. The gathering is a joint initiative of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Quartet Middle East Envoy Tony Blair.


The sides decided to meet next after the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha in later December.


Palestinian unity? Not quite yet

Meanwhile State officials told Ynet on Wednesday that Israel has urged Egypt and Saudi Arabia to refrain from pushing Fatah and Hamas to reconcile before the time is right. Certainly, they said, not while President Mahmoud Abbas has asserted that there can be no dialogue with Hamas before it cedes control of Gaza. The message to Riyadh was likely relayed through the United States).


Israel's Foreign Ministry and the US State Department maintain that so long as Hamas refuses to abandon terrorism, there is no point in engaging it. At the moment, they say, it is vital to support the moderate leaders within the Palestinian Authority, meaning Fatah, so as to communicate to the Palestinians that the political track yields more achievements.  


פרסום ראשון: 12.12.07, 18:07
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