A fortnight after chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and a second negotiator, Mohammed Ishtayeh, tendered their resignation to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian government announced the move had been motivated by Israel’s “failure to fulfill commitments undertaken before the resumption of direction negotiations” in July.
The two had resigned at the end of October following Israel’s announcement that it intends to demolish 20 Arab-owned buildings in East Jerusalem.
Their resignation was preceded by the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners — the second in a series of four releases agreed to as part of US-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians.
On Thursday, the Palestinian government’s Negotiations Affairs Department issued a statement explaining Erekat and Ishtayeh’s decision to resign with peace talks still under way.
According to the statement, the negotiators’ 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” — actions that were said to prove that Israel was not serious “about reaching a two-state solution” and that it has failed to fulfill its commitments.
The statement addressed the fact that Israel had consented to release convicted killers as part of the talks, saying Jerusalem had put the move to “political use” in order to “advance its illegal and profoundly damaging settlement enterprise.” Rather than show good will, the decision to release prisoners — while continuing settlement construction — demonstrated “bad faith and a severe lack of integrity on the Israeli side.”
The statement added that Israel had approved construction of more settlement units in the first three months of talks than it had in the five months before negotiations had resumed.
Therefore, it said, the negotiators’ resignation should be seen in light of several Israeli “policies that continue to undermine the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution, including accelerated settlement activity,” rather than just the recent announcement of tenders to build 20,000 new housing units in settlements.
According to the statement, the Palestinians would continue to honor the commitments they had made to the peace talks “until the end of the 9-month period agreed with Israel and the US,” despite the resignation.