Israel’s chief negotiator in peace talks with the Palestinians on Thursday criticized the resignation of Palestinian negotiators that had been announced the previous day by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, saying they were reneging on their commitments. She expressed hope that negotiations would nevertheless continue as planned.
“The resignations are incompatible with the responsibilities that they took upon themselves,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said in an interview with Army Radio.
Abbas announced the resignation in a radio interview on Wednesday, declaring that the negotiating team had stepped down over Israel’s continued settlement construction in the West Bank. Abbas noted, however, that if he failed to convince the negotiators to rescind their resignation, he would appoint a new team to represent the Palestinians at peace talks.
On Tuesday, the Housing Ministry published tenders for the planning of some 20,000 settlement apartments — an unprecedented number — including 1,200 units in the controversial E1 corridor linking Jerusalem with Ma’ale Adumim to the east, the settlement watchdog Peace Now said.
Soon after the report broke, Netanyahu canceled the tender for E1. And later Tuesday, Netanyahu ordered all the plans pulled back, saying the move to push forward tens of thousands of new units over the Green Line was a “meaningless step” that would create pointless tension with the international community.
However, after the publication of the tenders, Erekat said he had called the United States, Russia, the European Union, the United Nations and the Arab League to voice his protest.
“I informed them that if Israel implements this decision, then this means the end of the negotiations and the end of the peace process,” he said.
Israel and the Palestinians have held more than a dozen secretive meetings since resuming talks in August. While there have been no official statements on progress — or even on the specific details of the talks — rumors abound that negotiations have run up against both sides’ intractable positions on such key issues as Jerusalem, the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, and continued Israeli military presence along the border with Jordan.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.