The Palestinians are stressing that they will not enter into lengthy negotiations with Israel: Fatah official Nabil Shaath said Saturday that Palestinian leaders are in agreement over the Quartet's proposal for the resumption of peace talks. Shaath said there are major differences between the current announcement and statements issued in recent months.
The Quartet's recent statement does not mention a settlement construction freeze, but does note the Road Map. Shaath claims that the fact that the Quartet has decided that both sides will have to interpret the statement as they see fit – without outlining any concrete steps – is the reason that negotiations have been going on for two decades and may be the reason why they stall again.
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"The international community must take harsh and clear steps to point out the terms of negotiations and take harsh steps against those who violate them; but we, the Palestinians, are the only ones being punished when we break the terms," he said.
The Fatah official described the proposal as "very vague" and called for clear terms: "If the Quartet does not want clear terms it means it has given up on the Road Map and UN resolutions 242 and 1515."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: AFP)
He further said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu interpreted the Quartet statement one way while the Palestinians interpreted it as dropping the demand for a settlement construction freeze. "Israel's statement about plans to build 1,100 housing units in Gilo effectively abolished the Quartet statement.
"We do not intent to accept this statement unless Netanyahu accepts it publically as we understand it. Netanyahu must immediately suspend settlement construction, including that for natural growth."
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He insisted on explicit statements to that effect from Netanyahu himself and said that if both parties would be left to interpret the statement themselves negations will take another 20 years.
"Netanyahu must tell his people that he is freezing settlement construction so that talks based on 1967 borders and land swaps can commence. He must do this for the future of the people in Israel, not for the Palestinians."
The Fatah leader also raised doubts as to Quartet envoy Tony Blair's ability to continue his role. "Blair has effectively become the advocate of such proposals and there are doubts whether he can continue to act as a neutral mediator." He stressed that the PA has not filed a motion to end his role, however it was recently reported that the PLO intends to declare him "persona non grata."
Shaath estimated that Netanyahu will take advantage of the fact that the US is preoccupied with domestic issues to expand the settlements, mainly around Jerusalem, in order to set facts on the ground. "We shall not resume negotiations until settlements construction is completely halted. We accept the Road Map and the latest Quartet statement on the terms of negations. These are the rules of the game and we accept them."
As for the Palestinian's UN bid for statehood, Shaath said that the decision to seek a UN Security Council hearing after international law experts explained that it would be the best way to attain UN membership.
Shaath said that the Palestinians have been able to garner the support of nine UN Security Council members for their bid: "Nine of the Security Council's recognized the Palestinian state and have full diplomatic relations with the PA, so we expect them to vote for us."
Still, he noted that Ramallah was aware that the United States and Israel were sparing no effort to pressure the nine nations in question to vote against the Palestinian bid.
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