Palestinians Expected to Leave Direct Talks

After giving Netanyahu an extension of several days to stop the renewed building in the settlements, the Palestinian leadership is expected to decide to cut off contact on Saturday.

The Palestinian leadership plans to meet on Saturday and is expected to officially decide to end negotiations with Israel if the renewed West Bank settlement construction is not halted.

Those expected to attend the meeting Saturday include representatives of the PLO executive committee, the Fatah central committee, and the heads of other political parties.

erekat - Dan Keinan - Dec 29 2008
Dan Keinan

After making a decision, the Palestinian leadership is expected to announce that the final decision of whether to leave the talks will be made by the Arab League, who are planning to discuss the issue this coming Monday.

The head of the Palestinian negotiation team, Saeb Erekat, said on Wednesday that "there are no half-way solutions on the settlements issue."

In a statement released to the press after meeting with U.S. Consul General Daniel Rubinstein, Erekat called on the American government and the European Union to force Israel to stop all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in order to give peace a chance.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Wednesday that the Palestinians would not be able to remain in the peace talks after Israel's decision not to extend the moratorium, in comments to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news network. Gheit added that "despite the international efforts, I am not optimistic [about peace talks]".

The European Union Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton is also expected to arrive for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Thursday. The purpose of her visit will be to support American efforts to save the fledgling talks from collapse.