Steinitz, Shalom: PA Team Didn't Quit Over Building
If the negotiating team for the Palestinian Authority did decide to walk away from peace talks with Israel, it wasn't because of the government's decision to announce new construction in Judea and Samaria, said government ministers Yuval Steinitz and Silvan Shalom.
The PA has been cagey about whether or not the team had quit the talks, with PA chief negotiators Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyeh submitting their resignation to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas last Thursday, but a a PA spokesperson told the Ma'an news agency that reports of the negotiators resigning were not accurate.
According to reports, Erekat and Shtayyeh said they did not want to continue the talks on their demands for Israeli withdrawals from Judea and Samaria as Israel announced that it would build more homes in the region, but Steinitz said that the two had nothing to do with each other.
“The talks with the Palestinians were conducted according to the parameters that had been agreed upon in advance,” he said. “One of those parameters was that there would be no limit on Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria at all. I was with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when this issue came up in the pre-negotiations with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who spoke on behalf of the Palestinians, and all agreed to this stipulation,” he said.
“It was clear to everyone that building plans would be announced from time to time,” he added. “Any complaints the Palestinians have about this now are out of place, as their demands violate the understandings that led to the talks.”
Shalom confirmed Steinitz's comments. “As far as we are concerned, the negotiations are continuing, and if the PA team resigned it has nothing to do with construction. We never agreed to a building freeze in advance of the negotiations, and in any event the announcement of the team's resignation came before an official announcement by Israel that the construction would take place.”