PA’s New Conditions in Effect Rule Out Direct Talks
The Palestinian Authority has added new conditions for resuming direct talks with Israel, presenting new demands that in effect preclude negotiations.
The stipulations stated to the BBC by PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat reflect a previously stated strategy of waiting "a year or two" for the United Nations to recognize it as a new Arab country instead of trying to reach a compromise agreement with Israel.
Erekat’s remarks to the BBC Tuesday did not even mention the PA's oft-stated proviso of a permanent extension of the 10-month Israeli freeze on new construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria, which the PA may be taking for granted. The PA has been expecting continued backing on this issue from U.S. President Barack Obama, who originally pressured Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to implement the temporary freeze last year. Neither Obama nor Netanyahu mentioned the issue after their meeting at the White House Tuesday.
The United States has previously failed to convince Israel to apply the freeze to neighborhoods in Jerusalem that the PA demands as the capital of its proposed new Arab country - though a de-facto freeze is in effect there.
Erekat told BBC that in order for direct talks to resume, Israel also must accept former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's proposal as a starting point. Olmert has said that the PA never replied to his offer, which accepted most of the PA's demands on Jerusalem but did not satisfy its insistence that Israel allow the immigration of millions of foreign Arabs claiming ancestry in the country.
In addition, Erekat wants Israel to recognize the PA according to the armistice lines that existed from 1949 until the Six Day War in 1967 - which in effect would leave no issues for negotiation. He told BBC, "We already have recognized Israel based on the 1967 boundaries and now Israel must do the same.” The PA has previously has stated that Israel is a country, but PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has refused to accept Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence that it be recognized as “Jewish” country, a stipulation that would in effect preclude flooding it with foreign Arabs.
Erekat did not directly answer a question by BBC concerning Obama’s statements that the PA has not done enough to meet its own commitments, such as preventing incitement. “How can we talk about negotiations when Israeli bulldozers are on PA land?” Erekat answered.