A letter reportedly sent by Israel’s national security chief to the White House, the EU and numerous ambassadors blames the Palestinians for the collapse of peace talks, and claims to include hard proof that PA officials were devising measures to thwart the process even before Israel refused to release a fourth round of Palestinian prisoners at the end of March.
In the April 22 letter, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Yossi Cohen, revealed that chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat wrote a policy paper in March in preparation for a Palestinian rejection of American mediation efforts and Israeli overtures — nearly a month before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a unilateral move to sign 15 international conventions, ostensibly in response to Israel’s refusal to honor its commitment to release the final round of prisoners, Haaretz reported Wednesday.
In fact, Cohen said, according to a copy of the latter published alongside the report (PDF here), Erekat had planned the maneuver weeks before Israel announced its refusal to release the prisoners — timing that, according to Cohen, demonstrates that the Palestinian leadership never intended to follow the peace talks through.
Cohen attached Erekat’s policy paper to his letter, copies of which were reportedly sent to his US counterpart Susan Rice, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, all Israel-based EU ambassadors, and ambassadors from China, Russia and other countries. He appealed to the recipients to peruse the Erekat document and “draw conclusions” as to the Palestinians’ “bad faith” and responsibility for the failure of the latest round of peace talks.
According to Cohen, the 65-page Erekat document, which contained a “highly selective” account of the peace talks held since July and a “series of recommendations” for unilateral Palestinian actions, was presented by Erekat to Abbas on March 9, prior to Abbas’s visit to the United States and his meeting at the White House with US President Barack Obama on March 17.
The paper, Cohen said, serves as proof that Palestinian policymakers had recommended a strategy of unilateral moves “outside of the agreed negotiation framework” to Abbas as early as March, nearly two months before the April 29 deadline for the completion of the talks. Thus when Obama tried at their White House meeting to persuade Abbas to make progress at the negotiations, Cohen indicated, the PA president was already bent on torpedoing the talks and following a unilateral course.
“The document serves as damning evidence of bad faith on the part of the Palestinian side,” Cohen wrote. “It suggests that plans to reject American proposals and pursue unilateral actions were in place well in advance, despite the unwavering commitment shown by Secretary Kerry and his team in facilitating these negotiations, and the seriousness which Israel has demonstrated throughout the negotiation process.”
In the document, Erekat recommended that the Palestinian Authority apply to international treaties such as the Geneva Convention.
He also recommended reconciliation with Hamas, revealing that the push for a unity government with the terrorist organization, which does not recognize Israel, began long before negotiations with Israel reached a stalemate.
This, Cohen said, proved that the Palestinians’ unilateral moves, ostensibly direct responses to perceived Israeli intransigence, were actually “premeditated” and “calculated” steps aimed at sinking the peace process and hindering American mediation efforts.
The Palestinians have blamed Israel for the failure of the talks, saying that if Israel had released the prisoners as planned, they would not have made unilateral moves, culminating with the Fatah-Hamas pact, that saw Israel suspend the negotiations and the April 29 deadline pass with no substantive progress and no agreement for further talks.
Israel had conditioned the release of the fourth batch of prisoners, some of them Arab Israelis, on the continuation of talks past their April 29 deadline. The Palestinians refused, and made a unilateral move for international recognition.
“This document refutes the current Palestinian claim that the decision to apply for accession to the conventions – in direct violation of Palestinian obligations and of the understandings that enabled the resumption of negotiations in July 2013 – was taken strictly in response to what they considered a delay in the release of the fourth tranche of prisoners,” Cohen wrote in the letter.
“Similarly, it indicates that advancing the reconciliation process with Hamas and bringing Hamas into a new government was under active consideration at the very time intensive negotiations were meant to be under way,” he continued.
“The document points to premeditation and to Palestinians’ calculations to renege on their commitments and pursue a unilateral strategy regardless of the release of prisoners, in a manner that would gravely endanger if not destroy the negotiation process.”
American officials were quoted last weekend, in an extensive account of the negotiations published by Yedioth Ahronoth, overwhelmingly blaming Israel for the failure of the talks. It was later claimed that Kerry’s special envoy Martin Indyk was the prime source for the report, which highlighted Netanyahu’s settlement policies as “the primary sabotage.” An official was quoted in the report telling Israel, The Palestinians are tired of the status quo. They will get their state in the end — whether through violence or by turning to international organizations.”