Further Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations are set to be held next week, Israel Radio reported Friday.
The new round of talks follow Israel’s release late Tuesday of 26 long-time Palestinian prisoners — all convicted murderers — in the second phase of four such releases, agreed as part of the framework for the negotiations.
The ongoing negotiations will coincide with a visit to the region by US Secretary of State John Kerry. “In Jerusalem and Bethlehem, [Kerry] will meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials to discuss the ongoing final status negotiations as well as other regional issues of mutual concern. He will also discuss issues related to Iran with Israeli officials,” US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a press statement Thursday.
News of the new talks came despite reports Thursday that the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and a second negotiator, Mohammed Ishtayeh, had tendered their resignations to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas earlier Thursday, following Israel’s announcement that it intends to demolish 20 Arab-owned buildings in east Jerusalem. “Knowledgeable sources” told Ma’an news agency that the resignation letters were placed on Abbas’s table, and were pending his decision.
However, the resignations could not be independently confirmed by The Times of Israel and were not reported in official Palestinian media. PA sources said they knew nothing of the resignations.
The PA negotiators were said to be infuriated by reports this week of Israeli approval of 5,000 new housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
On Thursday evening, the PLO’s Executive Committee threatened to take “a number of steps” over the coming days to confront “the settlement onslaught” and prevent the political process from “becoming defunct and incapable of realizing its purpose,” official news agency WAFA reported.
It was not immediately clear what house demolitions the negotiators were referring to. Early Tuesday morning, Jerusalem municipality bulldozers destroyed a residential building in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of east Jerusalem that housed nine members of the Shweiki family, Maariv reported. On Wednesday, the three-story home of Ayman Qarash was demolished in the same neighborhood.
Earlier this week, Palestinian negotiators reportedly stiffened their positions on land swaps with Israel and on the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.