Palestinian official on negotiations: It's now or never
PA fears Israel will purposefully 'escalate violence' in Gaza prior to Condoleezza Rice's visit next week in order to keep from honoring commitments of Road Map. Sources say Rice has American-Israeli-Palestinian meeting planned to assess current security situation
Following announcements of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's upcoming visit to the Middle East, Palestinian Authority officials have been expressing fears that "Israel will try to escalate violence in the Gaza Strip in order to prevent the progress in negotiations."
A senior Palestinian official told Ynet on Monday that "it's now or never. The discussion on the major issues can no longer be postponed due to the interior crisis in Israel."
He added that "even if Israel doesn't decide on a major operation in Gaza, it will try to escalate violence in order to refrain from committing to the political process." The government has recently announced that it will hold talks this week on the issue of whether to expand military activity in the Strip.
"The Israelis know that the Palestinian side fulfills its security commitments, and they are looking for an excuse to refrain from honoring their side – the opening of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, including the Orient House, and halting all construction in the settlements," the Palestinian official added.
"We understand that with Olmert's fragile situation there is no chance these things will occur, so the Israeli side will try to thwart negotiations using any excuse," he said. The source added that if Israel hadn't approved of the security steps taken by the PA it never would have agreed to the list of security settlements that brought to the opening of almost all of the West Bank to Arab-Israeli citizens.
"We want discussions on the large issues, beyond the daily business – this is what we will demand of Rice," he said.
Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, spoke to the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan and said that a meeting between Rice, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia is scheduled to take place during Rice's visit.
"We will aspire first and foremost during the meeting to discuss the need to verify Israel's agreement to its commitments according to the Road Map, at the head of which is the halting of all construction in the settlements – including the construction due to 'natural growth'." Erekat also stated that contrary to Israel's claims, all of the core issues, including that of Jerusalem are currently on the negotiating table.