Have Palestinian-Israeli talks collapsed?

Abbas-Netanyahu

Next stop: the International Criminal Court?

By Stuart Littlewood

In an earlier article I said that if the Palestinian Authority suddenly beamed information at me I’d view it with grave suspicion. So what was I supposed to make of the press release below, received yesterday evening and purporting to be from the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Negotiations Affairs Department and relayed by the embassy in London?

I could find nothing about this bombshell on the PLO or Palestine Mission UK websites. So, I called the London embassy at 10:15 this morning, to find nobody in to confirm or deny it! The ambassador’s secretary said there was a meeting with the UK Foreign Office and everyone was probably there.

Press Release: Statement on resignation of Palestinian negotiations team

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 fulfil commitments undertaken before the resumption of direct negotiations on 29 July 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 nine month period agreed with Israel and the US, which ends on 29 April 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.

Questions for William Hague

Meanwhile I felt another “Dear Henry…” coming on so penned the following to my member of parliament, Henry Bellingham:

Dear Henry,

If the bulletin…  is true, the so-called peace talks appear to have collapsed. Few people with an interest in these matters will be surprised.

Negotiators Erekat and Shtayyeh have resigned, saying they came to the decision because of the “unprecedented escalation of colonization and oppression against Palestine and the Palestinian people by the state of Israel [for instance the 6,296 illegal settlement units  approved by the Israelis during the first three months of negotiation]; a lack of seriousness from the Israeli government about reaching a two-state solution; and the Israeli government’s failure to fulfil commitments undertaken before the resumption of direct negotiations on July 29th 2013.”

Everyone has known this charade was designed to buy time to create more irreversible “facts on the ground” in order to make Israel’s occupation – or at least domination – permanent. The wonder is that it took this long for the Palestinians to become disgusted enough to walk away.

Would you please ask the foreign secretary:

1. Why has Her Majesty’s Government continually pushed the Palestinians into direct negotiations with their oppressor knowing full well the Israelis’ track record of conducting these matters in bad faith?

2. Since it is obvious that no peace can be sustained unless underpinned by justice and the rule of international law, will HMG now recommend the Palestinians take their claims to the International Criminal Court and help enforce the outcome with trade or other sanctions until compliance is achieved?

Kind regards, etc.

With a fog of uncertainty (or secrecy) enveloping the London end, I have emailed a communications adviser at the PLO with the question: “Does this mean the peace talks have collapsed? Can anyone be found to continue them – if so who are the new negotiators? And what reasons are there to still delay taking Palestine’s claims to the International Criminal Court?”

I received the following reply from the PLO:

1. The statement is clear: this involves only the negotiations team, not the negotiations process.

2. The president, in consultation with the leadership, will take a decision regarding the future of the negotiations team. The president has said publicly that he is trying to convince the current team to stay but, if they refuse, he will nominate a new team.

3. The only reason for not ratifying the Rome Statue, as well as other international treaties, is an agreement with the Israeli side to free 104 pre-Oslo prisoners during nine months in return of [sic] not joining new international treaties or UN institutions. The nine months end on 29 April 2014.

Will anyone step forward? Shocking blackmail regarding the prisoners. And what a grubby, disreputable deal all endorsed by Western powers.

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