Palestinians Drop Preconditions To Peace Talks

YERUSHALAYIM -

In what could be a turning point in the years-long effort to revive Mideast peace talks, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has said that they are setting no preconditions.

In an apparent reversal of policy, the senior Palestinian official told a U.N. committee in New York on Monday that a building freeze in Yehudah and Shomron and the release of Palestinian prisoners were not conditions for returning to negotiations, but rather obligations that Israel must fulfill, according to a Reuters report.

Until now, the Palestinians have refused to negotiate if their conditions are not met, while Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has insisted on negotiations without any preconditions.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit Yerushalayim and Ramallah on Thursday and Friday in a bid to restart the talks.

“Make no mistake we are exerting every possible effort in order to see that Mr. Kerry succeeds. No one benefits more from the success of Secretary Kerry than Palestinians and no one loses more from his failure than Palestinians,” Erekat said.

He said that in the past two months Kerry had met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas five times, Erekat three times and that the three spoke by phone almost weekly.

“Mr. Kerry is keeping things (close to) his chest. He likes to work very, very, very below the radar and grow things like mushrooms,” Erekat said.

Israel’s chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians, Tzipi Livni, confirmed in a meeting on Tuesday with the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that intense efforts are ongoing.

Livni told the Committee that resuming negotiations was “first and foremost an Israeli interest,” adding, “We want the Palestinian Authority to know that peace talks are the only game in town.”

However, the Palestinian rhetoric of peace was laced with propaganda.

“Today in [Yehudah and Shomron], and East Yerushalayim… I can sum up the situation with one word — apartheid,” said Erekat. “Worse than that which existed in South Africa,” Erekat said.

Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor denounced Erekat for spreading falsehoods and propaganda.

“One would expect a so-called ‘peace negotiator’ to be educating his own people for tolerance and coexistence,” Prosor said in a statement. “Saeb Erekat is using every microphone to incite, inflame, and demonize the state of Israel.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinians, who have done all the legal work necessary to join 63 U.N. agencies, conventions and treaties said on Monday they are holding off on applications in order to give Kerry a chance to succeed.

The U.N. General Assembly decision to upgrade the Palestinians from a U.N. observer to a nonmember observer state gives them the right to apply for membership in U.N. and other organizations, including the International Criminal Court.