Palestinians Rebuff Quartet's Calls to Return to Table

Palestinian negotiation Saeb Erakat calls on on the Quartet to explain what measures it will take to ensure that a future round of negotiations will 'succeed where countless previous rounds have failed.'

Palestinians will be prepared to resume talks with Israel once Israel freezes all settlement activity and accepts clear frames of reference for the talks, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reaffirmed yesterday.

"These are not favors that Israel is doing for us. These are its obligations in accordance with international law," Erekat said in a statement issued after he met in Jerusalem with representatives of the Mideast Quartet of international mediators, who began separate talks with both sides yesterday in another effort to get peace talks going again.

Quartet and Fayyad - Shahar Azran - October 2011
Shahar Azran

"We have no problem with dialogue, but it must be meaningful," Erekat said.

He called on the Quartet - the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union - "to explain, in practical terms, what measures it will take to ensure that a future round of negotiations will succeed where countless previous rounds have failed."

Erekat's comments echoed those of another Palestinian negotiator, Nabil Sha'ath, who told Voice of Palestine Radio that Palestinian demands "are very clear and they will not change for any reason."

"The Quartet does not seem to understand that we will not return again to negotiations while the land is being stolen from under our feet."

The Palestinian leadership says it will not resume negotiations until Israel stops all settlement activities in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and recognizes the 1967 borders as those of the future Palestinian state.

Israel says direct negotiations must take place without Palestinian preconditions.

A document that Israel's Foreign Ministry sent yesterday to foreign embassies in Israel, and made available to the media, accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of "pursuing an increasingly hostile, confrontational and unilateral approach" which "has effectively blocked any possibility for political progress."

"Unfortunately, a realistic appraisal of the situation indicates that attempts to proceed further at this time, towards political understandings, will surely end in failure," the document said.

The current Quartet mission comes after Abbas asked the United Nations on September 23 to approve Palestinian membership, in effect recognizing Palestinian statehood. Once the membership request was submitted, the Quartet called for peace talks to resume within a month, but the October 23 deadline has already come and gone without renewed talks.