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Team of Palestinian negotiators resigns

The resignation of the Palestinian negotiating team was first announced on November 1st, and denied on the same day (see last two items). On November 13th it was again announced by press agencies (2), though not announced in the Israeli media, and confirmed the following day by Palestinian Missions abroad (1). John Kerry, who invested unprecedented time and energy in getting face-to-face talks started, knew before his criticisms of Israeli seriousness in speeches and briefings  11-13th November.

Mohammed Shtayyeh, L, and Saeb Erekat, 3rd L have resigned. Also at dinner in more hopeful times the Israeeli team, Tzipi Livni, 2nd L and Yitzhak Molcho, adviser to Netanyahu, far R.

Statement on Resignation of Palestinian Negotiations Team

Press Release from Palestinian Mission UK
November 14, 2013

In reference to the latest reports concerning the resignation of the Palestinian negotiations team from the final status negotiations, the PLO – Negotiations Affairs Department would like to announce the following:

1) Several days ago, Dr. Saeb Erekat and Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh wrote to H.E. President Mahmoud Abbas explaining that they would not be able to continue fulfilling their duties as negotiators, and thereby requesting that the President relieve them of their positions. This request was motivated by a number of factors, including: an unprecedented escalation of colonization and oppression against Palestine and the Palestinian people by the State of Israel; a lack of seriousness from the Israeli government about reaching a two-state solution; and the Israeli government’s failure to fulfill commitments undertaken before the resumption of direct negotiations on July 29th 2013.

2) Of particular concern was the Israeli government’s political use of the release of pre-Oslo prisoners in order to advance its illegal and profoundly damaging settlement enterprise throughout the occupied State of Palestine. This, combined with the false allegation that an agreement between the PLO and Israel was made in order to exchange prisoners for settlements, has demonstrated bad faith and a severe lack of integrity on the Israeli side.

3) The resignation of the Palestinian negotiators was presented after Israel had already approved 6,296 settlement units during the first three months of negotiations. This figure is higher than the total amount of settlement units approved during the five months prior to the resumption of negotiations (5,577 units). The resignation was not presented as a response to the latest announcement by the Israeli Ministry of Housing to advance almost 20,000 settlement units, but as a response to several policies that continue to undermine the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution, including accelerated settlement activity. PM Netanyahu’s call to “reconsider steps for evaluating planning potential” in illegal Israeli settlements does not halt the thousands of units Israel has approved, and continues to approve, in the occupied State of Palestine.

4) This resignation relates only to the current negotiations team: it does not invalidate the commitment made by the Palestine Liberation Organization to continue negotiations until the end of the 9 month period agreed with Israel and the US, which ends on April 29th. 2014.

5) The Palestinian leadership will continue its process of internal consultations and its contacts with the Arab League, Russia, the European Union, the United Nations and the United States, along with other international partners, in order to advance the cause for a just peace between Israel and Palestine, which includes ending the 1967 Israeli occupation and reaching a solution to all final status issues based on international law.

Palestinian peace talks delegation resigns, Abbas says

By Noah Browning, Reuters
Nov 13, 2013

RAMALLAH – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday his delegation of peace negotiators has resigned over the lack of progress in U.S.-brokered statehood talks with Israel that have been clouded by Jewish settlement building.

The development would mark a new low point for the talks with Israel that resumed in July and which officials from both sides have said have made little headway.

In an interview with Egyptian CBC television, Abbas suggested the negotiations would continue even if the Palestinian peace delegation sticks to its decision.

“Either we can convince it to return, and we’re trying with them, or we form a new delegation,” he said.

It was unclear from Abbas’s interview when the Palestinian negotiators quit, but Abbas said he would need about a week to resume the talks.

In a statement to Reuters TV on Wednesday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat did not elaborate on the report of his resignation, but said the sessions with Israel were frozen.

“In reality, the negotiations stopped last week in light of the settlement announcements last week,” he said.

Housing minister Uri Ariel of Jewish Home, L, announced plans for more than 20,000 new settler homes in the West Bank on Tuesday November 12th; on the same day, PM Netanyahu asked him to ‘reconsider’. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, an area now controlled by Hamas Islamists opposed to Abbas’s peace moves, with East Jerusalem as its capital. They argue that Israeli settlements deny them a viable country.

Israel cites historical and biblical links to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where more than 500,000 Israelis live alongside 2.5 million Palestinians.

Since the talks got underway after a three-year break, Israel has announced plans for several thousand new Jewish settler homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The disclosure on Wednesday that Israel’s Housing Ministry had commissioned separate plans for nearly 24,000 more homes for Israelis in the two areas raised U.S. concern and drew Palestinian condemnation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an advocate of settlement construction, intervened late on Tuesday, ordering a halt to the projects and saying he had no prior knowledge of them.

Netanyahu said he feared such settlement activity could trigger an international outcry that would divert attention from Israel’s lobbying against a deal between world powers and Iran that would ease economic sanctions on Tehran without dismantling its nuclear-enrichment capabilities.

Nuclear talks are due to resume in Geneva on November 20. Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power, accuses Iran of pursuing atomic weapons. Iran says its nuclear program has only peaceful purposes.


President Peres tries to explain. Kerry does not get his point. Photo by Reuters, Jerusalem, November 6th

A statement announcing Netanyahu’s move made no mention of the Palestinians or the land-for-peace negotiations. Most countries say Israeli settlements built in areas captured in the 1967 Middle East war are illegal.

Israeli Energy Minister Silvan Shalom, a member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, made clear on Wednesday that Israel would continue settlement building, while being more careful in the future about announcing it.

“The question is always about the timing. Is the timing right? Is the timing wrong?” Shalom told Israel Radio. “We need the support of the United States on the Iranian issue and have to do our utmost to lower any tensions with it.”

Erekat said that Israel, through its settlement activity, was trying to destroy U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to achieve a peace deal by the end of April.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department sought to downplay the reported resignations, saying it knew there would be ups and downs in the talks and pointing to Abbas’s statement that the talks would continue with the old negotiators or a new team.

“The fact that President Abbas went out and reaffirmed his commitment today … is a good sign, and we’ll continue to pursue it on the same timeframe,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, adding that Kerry spoke to Abbas and Netanyahu on Tuesday.

In an attack that drew calls by far-right Israeli politicians to suspend the peace talks, a 16-year-old Palestinian stabbed to death an Israeli soldier on a bus in northern Israel on Wednesday.

Police said the Palestinian, who lives in the West Bank, told investigators he carried out the attack because his uncles are in prison in Israel.

Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem and Arshad Mohammed in Washington

US/Israeli differences.

Differences of interest have been made very clear this month over Iran, settlement and the commitment to peace talks. See Bibi belligerence repels US and this comment from The Jewish Press.

Photo Credit: Lori Lowenthal Marcus

The Palestinian negotiators were not widely known to have resigned on November 13th. See this extract from a report on the huge new settlement construction by +972, November 13, 2013:

The initial announcement drew immediate criticism and, coming as it did on the heels of one of Washington’s harshest condemnations of Israeli settlement building in recent memory, increased the risk of what appeared to be a quickly deepening crisis brewing between Israel and the United States.

Part of that crisis was driven by the Israeli government throwing a diplomatic temper tantrum over what it fears is a bad deal between the P5+1 states and Iran over the latter’s alleged nuclear arms program.

Fully aware of the situation’s complexities considering the goal of Israel’s primary diplomatic push on Iran, Palestinian negotiators mocked their Israeli and American counterparts on Tuesday, acquisitioning the language they have been using surrounding the Iran talks.

“All options are open,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in response to the Israeli settlement announcement, clearly mocking the regular assurances Washington makes to Israel, repeating ad nauseam that “all options are on the table.”

Another Palestinian negotiator and fellow Oslo veteran, Mohammad Shtayyeh, made even clearer use of Washington’s growing bank of Iran-related sound bites. “We believe that it is better not to reach a deal than to reach a bad deal,” he said, responding to the latest of Israeli settlement building announcements. Washington has repeatedly used the phrase to reassure Israel that it won’t make a “bad deal” with Iran.

And maybe it is smart that the Palestinians started using the language of Iran nuclear talks. After all, they’re all Netanyahu can talk about lately.

But before then, John Kerry had wind of the approaching breakdown. Here is an extract from a report by AP, November 7th
Unscheduled visit to Netanyahu

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has decided to stay an extra day in the Mideast on his latest trip to salvage Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Kerry said in a joint interview with Israeli and Palestinian TV networks that will air later Thursday (7th) that he plans to return to Israel on Friday for another meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, Kerry landed on Thursday in Amman, Jordan, which was supposed to be the final stop in his two-day Mideast trip. He had not originally been scheduled to return to Israel.

At a joint press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Kerry said both Israeli and Palestinian leaders had reaffirmed their commitment to peace negotiations despite what he called clear tensions.

Kerry brokered the re-start of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which began three months ago. But little progress has been made in the U.S.-brokered talks which are supposed to produce an agreement by the end of April 2014.

Kerry arrived in Israel Tuesday, shortly after a meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian Authority negotiating teams, which took place amidst tension over settlement expansion and leaks from the negotiation rooms. The meeting, the sixteenth between the two sides, reportedly ended in a row, with raised voices and the exchange of verbal insults.

Palestine’s lead negotiators resign

November 01, 2013

Dr Saeb Erekat resigned following Israel’s announcement that it plans to demolish 20 Palestinian buildings in occupied Jerusalem.The two leaders of Palestine’s negotiating team, Dr Saeb Erekat and Dr Mohammad Shtayyeh, have submitted their resignations to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to Ma’an news agency.

The resignations follow Israel’s announcement that it plans to demolish 20 Palestinian buildings in occupied Jerusalem, leaving 16,000 Palestinians homeless.

Informed Palestinian sources explained that “the resignations will be at the disposal of the president to accept, reject or postpone in accordance with the public interest of the Palestinian people.”

According to the sources, the negotiating team resigned in protest of Israeli attempts to abandon its obligations towards the peace process, instead focusing on the continuation of settlement construction and the Judaisation of Jerusalem.”

The sources said that President Abbas has called for an urgent meeting with the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to discuss the resignations and to take an appropriate decision.

However according Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Erekat has since refuted the reports of his resignation and PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yusef also “denied that Erekat and his team had resigned. He said the issue had not even come up during the committee’s meeting in Ramallah on Thursday.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to arrive in the region next week to meet with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Abbas to discuss the outcomes of their bilateral negotiations.

Palestinian chief negotiator Erekat denies resignation reports

By Ynet news
November 01, 2013

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat denied the reports regarding his resignation. Earlier Thursday Palestinian sources told the Ma’an news agency that Erekat and his team submitted their resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to the report, the reason for the resignation is Israel’s lack of commitment to the peace process and the continued building beyond the Green Line. (Elior Levy)

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