Stalemate in Mideast Peace Process

Israeli Officials: Palestinian Leaders Inventing Excuses to Avoid Resuming Peace Talks

Jerusalem sources cast doubt on Palestinian Authority leaders' commitment to U.S.-led peace efforts, after chief Palestinian negotiator accuses Israel of 'ethnic cleansing' and blasts settlement construction plans.

Senior officials in Jerusalem have lambasted the Palestinian Authority, saying its leaders are not interested in renewing negotiations with Israel. The remarks came on the heels of a statement by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who blasted Israel for releasing a tender for the construction of 300 housing units beyond the Green Line, in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot.

In his statement Erekat said he has told French President Francois Hollande’s adviser, Emmanuel Bonne, that the new tender sabotages U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to renew the peace process.

“Alongside the new building permits, the government of Israel is carrying out ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem,” said Erekat. “Within 10 days, 77 Palestinians from East Jerusalem have lost the roof over their heads after nine homes were demolished. The government of Israel is a settler government, for the settlers, and everything it does is part of a strategy aimed at undermining Kerry’s efforts.”

Erekat made the statement following a report on Wednesday evening on Channel 10 to the effect that Israel has solicited bids for the construction of 300 housing units in the Ramot neighborhood beyond the Green Line. The report also cited a Housing and Construction Ministry document as saying that the state has decided to immediately sell 797 housing units in the neighborhood of Moradot Gilo, which is also located beyond the Green Line.

Erekat's statements drew harsh criticism from officials in Jerusalem. “The Palestinians continue to invent excuses in order to evade the negotiations,” they said. “Yet again they are recycling old claims on the basis of mistaken data; and are running to the microphone so as not to do the basic and simple thing – which is to sit down and talk about all the issues. Israel continues to call for the immediate start of direct negotiations.”

The senior officials noted that the housing units mentioned in the Channel 10 report are not new but rather construction that had already been decided upon and announced eight months ago. “There is no new construction but rather a technical procedure that requires re-publication of the tender that has already been published in the past.” 

Reuters