The Palestinian envoys to the peace talks with Israel will either be replaced in the coming days or be joined by new negotiators, senior Palestinian officials told Haaretz on Thursday.
The change to the negotiating team, which is led by Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyeh, will be made due to an ongoing crisis in the talks.
One senior official said Shtayyeh has already informed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he does not intend to return to the negotiating table and that Erekat’s situation is still unclear, although he has also expressed a desire to quit the negotiations due to lack of progress.
Last week, it was reported that both men have tended their resignation to Abbas, to protest the announcement that Israel is to build some 5,000 new settlement housing units. In an interview with Egyptian television on Wednesday, Abbas said their resignation letters had indeed crossed his desk, but he had yet to decide whether to accept them or not.
The Abbas interview, however, was filmed earlier in the week while he was visiting Cairo, and before the announcement of tenders being issued for some 24,000 housing units in the settlements, including the contentious E1 area, which the United States sees as a "red line" in settlement construction.
Along with other Palestinian leaders, Abbas is expected to reach a decision regarding the future of the talks in coming days. It is possible that a different team will take over on the Palestinian side.
The next meeting between the two sides has not be scheduled, and it is possible the Palestinians will take advantage of the current crisis to get answers or guarantees from the Americans before deciding to return to the bargaining table.
Senior Palestinian Authority officials said Abbas would not take the drastic step of ceasing negotiations without support from the Arab League.
“Palestinian leaders unanimously believe that no progress will be made without pressure on Israel from the international community, and in the meantime that’s not happening,” said one official. "Among the Palestinian leadership, there are some who believe that we must immediately leave the negotiations and turn to United Nations organizations, like the Security Council. Others still believe we should seek the help of the Quartet, and specifically the U.S."
Another official said Abbas would not leave the negotiating table without coordinating with the United States first. “We must remember that stopping the negotiations and the peace process is exactly what the settlers are after,” said one official. “If we play into their hands, they’ll be getting what they want. [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu now needs to prove if he is after a solution or just another blowout.”
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