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Palestinians, U.S. to Try to Bridge Gaps in Framework Deal

Negotiator Saeb Erekat to present list of 'gross Israeli violations' of terms of peace talks.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Palestinian negotiators will be in Washington Tuesday to try to bridge the gaps on all issues in the Israeli-Palestinian framework agreement that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry aims to draft.

A senior Palestinian source who has been briefed on the issue told Haaretz that the Palestinians seek clarifications from Kerry’s team on several issues.

“We want to clarify what the 1967 borders are from the Americans’ standpoint, and how they see the status of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and another long list of things including security issues,” he said.

The Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds reported Monday that Saeb Erekat, who heads the Palestinian negotiating team, expects to receive a written document from the Americans detailing their ideas about any future agreement. Erekat, for his part, plans to present Kerry with a list of what he called gross Israeli violations of the terms of the negotiating process and attempts to determine facts on the ground.

“Even though we believe in and admire the secretary of state’s efforts, there must be a suitable international response against Israel, not just condemnatory statements, for its continued construction in the settlements and the Israeli policy on Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the paper quoted Erekat as saying, referring to a mosque on the Temple Mount.

A person close to Erekat who spoke with Haaretz rejected what he termed the “lame attempt” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to raise the issue of leaving Israeli settlers in the future Palestinian state as a trial balloon to gauge the Palestinians’ response.

“This is a balloon that deflated long ago. Everyone knows that this is an attempt by Netanyahu to spread more smoke around the negotiations and try to buy time,” he said.

“The Palestinian stance on this matter is quite clear. The issue arose in the past in meetings between the negotiating teams, including the exploratory talks in Amman between Erekat and attorney Isaac Molho, and it was rejected out of hand.” Molho is Netanyahu’s personal envoy to the talks.

Erekat told the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam that his objection to leaving settlements in place doesn’t stem from any objection to the presence of Jews in the Palestinian state.

“I remind everyone that Jews were elected to the Fatah council in 2009,” he said, referring to election of the anti-Zionist Uri Davis to the governing body of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party.

“But on the issue of the settlements, we’ve made it clear that all the settlements are illegitimate under international law, and we can’t recognize the presence of settlers in the territory of the Palestinian state. The very fact that this was proposed means that Netanyahu and his government aren’t interested in a solution.”

The Palestinians also object to the analogy Netanyahu drew between the settlers and Arab citizens of Israel. According to the Palestinians, whereas the Arabs were living there even before the State of Israel was established, the settlers were sent by the state to take over Palestinian land.

The prevailing view among Palestinian officials, based on sources in Washington, is that the Palestinian negotiators will not threaten to seek redress from UN institutions, on the grounds that this would make it harder for Kerry to defend Palestinian positions in talks with Congress.

On the other hand, they warn, if no progress is made, Kerry might abandon the negotiations as a lost cause at some point, and the Palestinians would be the main losers as their dream of establishing a state recedes.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat (right), with the U.S.' John Kerry (center) and Israel's Tzipi Livni.Credit: AP

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