PA adviser doubts deal possible with Israel’s coalition

PA adviser doubts deal possible with Israel’s coalition

Nimr Hamad, senior aide to Mahmoud Abbas, suggests talks on refugee return will wait till after 9-month negotiations window

PA President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat (Uri Lenz/Flash90)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

A senior aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas cast doubt Sunday on the prospects for a peace accord with the current Israeli government.

Nimr Hamad, a political adviser to Abbas, told Israel Radio he did not believe it was possible to reach an agreement with the current coalition of right-wing parties. However, Hamad also indicated that if the two sides did reach understandings on questions of security and territory, other thorny issues, especially the return of refugees, could be discussed after the nine-month period allotted for negotiations.

On Saturday, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) said that if an agreement with the Palestinians was placed on the table, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition would likely be undermined as its members would part ways. “Sooner or later,” he was quoted as saying, the coalition would likely fall apart over the peace talks.

Hamad’s comments came in the wake of Abbas’s announcement last Wednesday that the Palestinian negotiation team had resigned in response to the Israeli government’s West Bank policies, specifically recent announcements on renewed settlement construction.

Abbas added that despite the resignation, he believed talks would not break down and added that he would consider naming a new team if the current one did not return to negotiations.

A Housing Ministry announcement last Tuesday that tenders for some 20,000 settlement units, including in the controversial E1 corridor, were in the works, drew sharp US and international reaction, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order that these plans be pulled back.

Netanyahu issued a harsh public rebuke of Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) for pushing the expansion of settlements at a diplomatically sensitive time.

National Security Adviser and former US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told a Washington think tank Thursday that settlements were at least partly to blame for the impasse in peace negotiations. “We have seen increased tensions on the ground. Some of this is a result of recent settlement announcements. So let me reiterate: The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” Rice told the Middle East Institute.

However, she said the US was still committed to pushing forward with peace talks and reiterated the US position that a “negotiated solution was the only path to peace.”

Rice’s remarks came just a week after Kerry made similar comments in a rare but scathing public critique of Israeli policies in the West Bank.

In response, an unnamed official quoted by Channel 2 said Israel would not “give in to the intimidation tactics” of the secretary, and would not compromise on its vital security needs. The official also reportedly noted that Kerry’s comments would not “encourage” the Palestinians to compromise.

Under heavy pressure from the US, Israelis and Palestinians resumed peace negotiations in July after a three-year hiatus.

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