Palestinians: Peace Talks Require Halt to Israeli Settlement Construction

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says nothing will come of Tuesday's meeting in Jordan unless Israel agrees to halt settlement construction in West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Monday that he believes his meeting with Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho on Tuesday will only bear fruit if Israel agrees to halt settlement construction.

Erekat and Molcho are set to meet in Jordan on Tuesday in a bid to get peace talks restarted. Negotiations have been stalled since September 2010.

Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat - AP - Feb. 6, 2010

Erekat told reporters in the West Bank on Monday that he does not expect any breakthroughs unless Israel agrees to halt settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He also said Israel must accept its 1967 lines as the basis for a future border.

Publicly, officials on both sides of the divide have been making the usual pronouncements.

"The talks are intended to move forward to negotiations," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev told dpa.

"We are just trying to create the right environment for talks," said Xavier Abu Eid,  a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), although he added that such an environment would include a full Israeli settlement freeze.

But expectations are low that any breakthrough will be achieved at the talks, hosted by King Abdallah II in Jordan.

"I would not make a big deal out of," an adviser to Erekat told dpa, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Most likely the talks will not lead anywhere. The meeting is going to be another failure," predicted Palestinian analyst Hani Masri.

Israel took control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel rejects the Palestinian demands and says peace talks should resume without preconditions.

The meeting in Jordan comes as the Palestinians are preparing a diplomatic campaign that aims to put Israel under "a real international siege."

The diplomatic offensive the Palestinians are planning to launch later this month could include pushing the UN Security Council to pass a resolution condemning settlement construction and urging the International Criminal Court to try Israel for war crimes related to its 2008-2009 incursion into the Gaza Strip.

2012 "will be the start of an unprecedented diplomatic campaign on the part of the Palestinian leadership, and it will be a year of pressure on Israel that will put it under a real international siege," said Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Sha'ath, according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry document. "The campaign will be similar to the one waged against apartheid in South Africa."