Aide to Chief Palestinian Negotiator Erekat Arrested for 'Spying for Israel'

Employee worked for PA's negotiations administration for past 20 years, but Saeb Erekat denies he held a senior position.

AP

Palestinian authorities arrested an employee of chief negotiator Saeb Erekat on suspicion of collaboration with Israel, senior officials in Erekat's office and in the PLO secretary general's bureau said on Saturday. 

A website identified with Hamas, a-Rasalla, reported the arrest, quoting Erekat, who said the official in question is suspected of espionage, but did not offer further details. Erekat said the employee in question was neither a very senior official nor one of his close advisers.

A senior official in the negotiations administration told Haaretz that the suspect had been under surveillance for several months and in recent weeks evidence was collected that led to his arrest and interrogation.  The senior official said that the person held an administrative position and prepared papers on the situation on the ground. 

According to reports in the Palestinian press, the individual has worked for the administration for the past 20 years, since the time it was headed by current Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Leaks of information and documents from the negotiations administration made headlines in 2011, when documents deemed secret were revealed on the Qatari news network al-Jazeera. 

At that time, two administration officials gave al-Jazeera numerous documents describing discussions between Israeli officials and the Palestinian authority, including minutes of meetings.  The Palestinian Authority presented the leaks at the time as an attempt by Qatar to bring down the Palestinian Authority and show it as currying favor with Israel.