After days of hedging, Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas confirmed that his team to the U.S.-sponsored negotiations with Israel has resigned. The announcement by Abbas confirmed comments made over a week ago by Saeb Erekat, head of the team, that the PA negotiators were leaving the talks because of Israel's announcement that it would build new homes in Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem.
According to some reports, Erekat and his assistant Mohammed 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. The announcement was made several weeks ago, after Israel released a new batch of terrorists in its “gesture” to the PA, as promised to the U.S. over the summer. Among the terrorists were murderers who had killed dozens of Jews.
Speaking to Al Jazeera Wednesday, Erekat said that Israel's “decision to build 20,000 homes in settlements is essentially a declaration that the negotiations have ended.”
On Wednesday, Abbas confirmed that the teams had resigned. In an interview with an Egyptian television station, Abbas said that “absolutely nothing” had been achieved in the talks anyway. If Israel was not more forthcoming in its concessions, Abbas said, the PA “will feel free to do whatever it wants” regarding getting what it wants from Israel. Abbas did not specify what he might do, but Israeli officials have speculated that he might ask the International Court of Justice or the UN Security Council to take action against Israel.
With that, Abbas said that the team could still reverse its decision, or the PA could appoint a different team – if Israel complied with the PA's demands, of course, starting with a declaration that it would stop all building in Judea, Samaria, and most of Jerusalem.
Speaking in an interview Thursday, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel's representative to the talks, said that the PA's resignation was a violation of its commitments. Israel, she said, had never committed to a building freeze as the conditions for talks. The PA knew this, she said, and as such Abbas was violating a pledge he made to Israel and the U.S. to continue with the talks, even as Israel continued to build in Judea and Samaria.
“The negotiations must continue,” she said. “I expect the PA not to take every opportunity to turn these negotiations into a drama” for political purposes, she added.