Erekat denies report of ongoing Israeli-Palestinian talks
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Erekat denies report of ongoing Israeli-Palestinian talks

Chief PA negotiator says no truth to Times of Israel revelation that his side agreed to halt statehood push in return for settlement slowdown

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

File: Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks at a press conference after an emergency meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, on August 11, 2014. (AP/Amr Nabil)
File: Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks at a press conference after an emergency meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, on August 11, 2014. (AP/Amr Nabil)

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday denied that there were ongoing talks between Palestinian and Israeli officials intended to defuse tension between the two sides, and possibly renew negotiations.

Erekat said he rejected a Times of Israel report “that describes a de facto agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority regarding halting international steps [toward statehood] in exchange for a settlement freeze.”

The report stated that both sides have taken a number of steps over the past three months, “not by agreement but as part of a reassessment of the situation in the region,” a Palestinian official explained.

Palestinian measures allegedly included halting, for the time being, applications to join United Nations agencies and other international bodies as part of the Palestinian push for statehood through diplomatic means.

Erekat told The Times of Israel on Thursday that not only were the reports of a slowdown untrue, but the Palestinian Authority even intends to take further international actions to punish Israel for its alleged human rights violations, force it to obey international law and accept the Palestinian right to statehood in the territories.

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem also denied the initial reports.

Israeli officials, however, said that Erekat himself was present at the latest meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s representative Yitzhak Molcho.

According to sources close to the talks, secret contacts between the senior officials representing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been taking place for several months and are still continuing, despite official peace talks that have stagnated for over a year.

Israeli authorities have apparently slowed down construction in West Bank settlements and increased permits for West Bank Palestinians to pray at the Temple Mount over the Ramadan holy month in a bid to show real will to improve ties.

“Each side understands the other side’s needs,” a source told The Times of Israel.

An Israeli source defined ongoing construction as continuing “natural expansion” but nothing beyond that.

Senior Palestinian officials say additional steps aimed at improving trust between Netanyahu and Abbas and between Israel and the PA be taken place soon.

Among them, a senior Israeli minister is expected to meet a senior PLO and Fatah official in a foreign country, at the end of next week.

The PA also expects Israel to unfreeze some economic plans for Area C of the West Bank (where Israel is in full control). Reunification of Palestinian families and permits for the Palestinian security apparatus to purchase more arms are also apparently in the offing.

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