Palestinians Quietly Confident as They Keep Mum on Talks

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Palestinian officials remained tight-lipped over the weekend, refusing to divulge what went on behind-the-scenes with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry or how an agreement was reached to renew negotiations with Israel. The only official statement, by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spoke of progress and agreements, but noted that there are several details to be agreed upon − after which Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni will meet in Washington to discuss the formula that will form the basis for peace negotiations.

However, a senior official hinted that Kerry committed himself to the 1967 borders, adding, “We received an order not to speak. Everything will go through the Americans, and, as far as I know, our situation is good; [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s situation isn’t that good.”

Nonetheless, many Palestinians are wary of negotiations, well aware of the endless disappointments since the 1991 Madrid Conference.

A Palestinian woman from Ramallah, who isn’t politically affiliated, described to Haaretz what all Palestinians feel on their journey from Hebron to Jenin: “It’s not the soldiers or the roadblocks; it isn’t even the [separation] fence. These are obvious characteristics of the occupation that can be halted by one order. The main problem is the settlements. There are new outposts constructed on every other hill; settlements and infrastructure work that shatter all our dreams to pieces. For that reason, the PA chairman knows exactly why he insists on discussing borders. He’s asking the world, ‘What are the borders of the state you intend to offer us?’”

The Palestinian leaders are well aware that if this proves to be yet another futile round of talks, their chances of political survival will be all but over. True, at the end of Ramadan ‏(at the beginning of August‏), Israel will free Palestinian prisoners, but people wonder what will happen next. The PA might receive more budgets for infrastructure or the construction of an airport, but that might not be enough. Every state needs borders and sovereignty, and the Palestinian public’s patience is at an end. If these aren’t achieved, Palestinian leaders will have to answer to their people, not John Kerry, knowing that al-Manara Square in Ramallah might become the Palestinian Tahrir.

John Kerry, left, and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat ahead of a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, June 30, 2013.Credit: AP

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