Palestinian Chief Negotiator: No Chance of Renewing Talks With Radical Right Netanyahu Government

Top PA officials react with scorn after Netanyahu appoints new head of Israeli delegation to negotiations, say no point in talks without freezing settlement construction and accepting 1967 borders.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.Credit: Ronen Zvulun , AP , Mohamed Torokman, Reuters

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Tuesday that he saw no chance of renewing talks with the new Israeli government, which he described as radical right.

"[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu believes in settlements and in violations and in the continue arrests," Erekat said in interviews with Palestinian media.

The renewal of negotiations depends on a series of steps mentioned by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over the weekend, including the freezing of settlement construction, the four round of prisoner release for Palestinians jailed before the Oslo Accords, and talks that would last one year and in which it would be concluded that the occupation of land captured in 1967 would end by 2017.

Erekat said that the French initiative for a United Nations Security Council Revolution is not quite ready and that the matter was still under deliberation between the French and the Arab League monitoring committee.

Earlier Tuesday, senior Palestinian officials responded with scorn to the appointment of Israeli minister Silvan Shalom to lead delegations to any future peace talks held with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government.

The appointment of Shalom – a veteran Likud minister who has never accepted the two state solution – is an empty gesture as Netanyahu has no interest in peace, according to the officials, who spoke with Israel Radio.

The officials went on to say that there was no point in meeting with Shalom, who is deputy prime minister and holds the Interior Ministry, until he has accepted the 1967 "Green-Line" borders as the basis for talks and a future Palestinian state, Israel Radio reported. They also demanded a freeze in settlement construction and called for the release of Palestinian prisoners – conditions Shalom and Netanyahu's government are unlikely to accept.

Other Palestinian officials who spoke with Israel Radio were more accepting, and said they would judge Shalom by his actions and, if given the chance to meet him, would consider whether meeting him was in line with Palestinian interests.

Shalom's appointment was first reported on Israel Radio. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office confirmed that Shalom will handle negotiations with the Palestinians if they are renewed, just like Tzipi Livni did before him in that position in the previous government.

The Jerusalem Post quoted sources close to Netanyahu as saying on Monday that the appointment was proof that his new government was intent on breaking the diplomatic stalemate with the Palestinians.

The responsibility Shalom was given is an empty title at this stage. The peace process has been deeply stalled since talks with the Palestinians exploded in April 2014 and remained stuck. Last year, contact with the Palestinians was mostly handled by Yoav (Poli) Mordechai, IDF coordinator of government activities in the territories. On a few isolated occasions it was handled by Israeli negotiator Isaac Molho. These talks did not deal with renewing peace negotiations, but with ongoing issues, such as tax revenues.

Isaac Molho will continue to serve as the prime minister's special envoy to the Palestinian Authority, according to sources close to Shalom.

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