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Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Palestinian Negotiators Quit Peace Talks Over Israeli Settlement Plans
Crisis — Lasting Impact on Negotiations Unclear
President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday his peace negotiators had resigned
over the lack of progress in U.S.-brokered statehood talks clouded by Israeli
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
In an interview
with Egyptian CBC television, Abbas suggested the negotiations would continue
even if the Palestinian peace delegation stuck to its
“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 had 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
“In reality, the
negotiations stopped last week in light of the settlement announcements last
week,” he said.
Since the talks got
underway after a three-year break, Israel has announced plans for several
thousand new settler homes in the occupied West Bank and East
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.
Benjamin Netanyahu, an advocate of settlement construction, intervened late on
Tuesday, ordering a halt to the projects and saying he had no prior knowledge
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.
resume in Geneva on Nov. 20. Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East’s
only nuclear power, accuses Iran of pursuing atomic weapons. Iran says its
nuclear programme has only peaceful purposes.
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.
But 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
Erekat said through
its settlement activity, Israel was trying to destroy U.S. Secretary of State
John Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to achieve a peace deal.
to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, an area now controlled
by Hamas Islamist opposed to Abbas’s peace moves, with East Jerusalem as its
capital. They fear Israeli settlements will deny them a viable
historical and biblical links to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where more
than 500,000 Israelis live alongside 2.5 million
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.