PA Negotiator: Endgame Peace Deal Could Bring Hamas-run Gaza Back Into Fold

Saeb Erekat tells Army Radio both sides have reached maturity in understanding that the price of war is greater than that of peace.

Haaretz Service
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A peace agreement that would tackle all the core issues would convince the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to accept peace with Israel, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Army Radio on Sunday, following last week's relaunch of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and U.S. Mideast envoy Mitchell welcoming Netanyahu and Abbas at the State Dept. building on Sept. 2, 2010.Credit: Reuters

On Saturday, aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat that the atmosphere in the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks had "taken a 180-degree turn" for the better.

The aides added the Palestinian delegation was pleased the United States planned to include all the core issues in an agreement to be reached by the end of 2011. These core issues deal with the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and borders.

Speaking to Army Radio on Sunday, Erekat said he felt the two sides were interested in achieving a viable peace, saying that "the time now is for decisions not for negotiations."

Erekat also referred to the possibility of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip accepting a possible peace deal with Israel. The Islamist militant organization has perpetrated several attacks against Israelis in defiance of the attempt to relaunch peace talks.

Last week, four Israelis were killed when unknown assailants opened fire at a vehicle they were traveling in near the West Bank city of Hebron. The following night, two Israelis were wounded in a similar shooting attack at the Rimonim Junction near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

In Sunday's interview, Eerekat estimated that a final status deal could bring Gaza back into the Palestinian fold, saying that if the two sides "sign an endgame agreement on all core issues I believe we will bring Gaza back."

Erekat added, however, that he feared the "Palestinian Authority will dissolve if we fail to reach an endgame agreement."

Speaking on the subject of the current settlement freeze, which is due to expire later this month, Erekat indicated that Netanyahu did not "mention the word freezing."

"We know his position and he knows our position. We will see what will happen in the next few days," Erekat said.

Erekat also denied a recent report which alleged that he had accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of stalling further negotiations by proposing to form 12 sub committees. "I never said that," Erekat said.

"I was asked why didn't we form these committees," the chief PA negotiator said, adding that he answered that "had [Netanyahu] asked for these committees he would be wasting time."

The chief PA negotiator said that now was "a time for two nations that really want peace and really can do it," saying that achieving peace was about "the maturity of the two sides .Once the price of war is greater than that of peaceall the core issues can be settled."

On Saturday, a senior U.S. official indicated U.S. President Barack Obama was "very pleased" with the outcome of last week's peace summit in Washington, saying Obama had cleared his entire schedule last Wednesday to devote himself to the summit. "He never invested in any other issue this way," the official said.

Senior U.S. officials were encouraged by the discussions at the dinner where Obama hosted Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah.

They said a sincere and open conversation took place on the possibilities for progress in the peace process. The officials said they had the impression the Palestinians left the summit very pleased as well.



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