PA Under Pressure to End Talks in Response to Israeli Settlement Expansion

PLO holds emergency meeting to mull steps, including appeal to UN bodies and ceasing negotiations.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

The Palestinian leadership will take a series of steps in the coming days in response to a new wave of Israeli settlement construction, the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee announced after an emergency meeting on Thursday at the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The statement did not contain specific details regarding the steps to be taken. However, PLO officials did not rule out the possibility of ceasing negotiations with Israel, or referring recent Israeli actions to various United Nations bodies.

“Palestinian leadership will not hesitate to take any measure in order to defend the homeland and the rights of Palestine as a member of the UN,” read the official PLO statement.

Members of the PLO committee are exerting considerable pressure on the Palestinan negotiating team, headed by Dr. Saeb Erekat, to step down, and cut off ties with Israel following the government’s announcement of plans for settlement expansion.

Palestinian media reported Thursday night that the negotiating team has already sent letters of resignation to Mahmoud Abbas, who must decide whether to accept them or not. Officials close to Erekat and the negotiators who spoke to them in recent hours stated that they received no news of plans to resign, but stated that the decision will be made in the coming days. “We do not confirm or deny the reports, and we will wait for the decisions of Palestinian leadership,” one of Erekat’s associates told Haaretz.

Another official with close ties to the Palestinian negotiators confirmed that heavy pressure has been put on the team by PA officials, and other Palestinian groups, to end the negotiations with Israel. According to the official, Palestinian leadership cannot remain indifferent in light of the reports of planned settlement expansion.

The same official also stated that the Palestinians committed to negotiate for at least nine months, and they plan to uphold that commitment, but that Israel and the United States have ignored internal Palestinian tension regarding settlement expansion, which destroys hope for a state within 1967 borders.

The internal Palestinian crisis regarding the negotiations began as plans for a new wave of settlement expansion were released by the Israeli government, in response to the release of Palestinian prisoners earlier this week. The new expansion would include the construction of some 1,500 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo, beyond the Green Line in northern Jerusalem, as well as the publication of tenders for immediate construction of some 800 housing units in the larger settlement blocs. In addition, 2,500 housing units would be added to smaller settlement blocs. Earlier this month, it was reported that Gabi Kadosh, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s advisor for settlement affairs, planned to advance a plan to exempt urban settlements from being obliged to publicize tenders for marketing lands.

Due to the lack of progress in the negotiations between Israel and the PA, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah again next week. Kerry is expected to discuss the Iranian nuclear program, as well as the ongoing peace negotiations.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas with his peace negotiator Saeb Erakat.Credit: AFP

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