Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Ishtayeh is insisting on resigning his post and will not participate in the upcoming negotiation rounds with Israel next week, Ma’an news agency reported on Thursday.
“Knowledgeable sources” told the independent news agency that Ishtayeh will be replaced by a yet unnamed Palestinian official and join chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, who will remain in his position despite having officially resigned on October 31.
Palestinian officials, including negotiator Erekat, have been voicing mounting criticism of Israel over its building in West Bank settlements and demolition of houses in East Jerusalem.
On Thursday, PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi called on the Palestinian leadership in a radio interview to “prepare to turn to the UN without waiting for the failure of negotiations with Israel,” Palestinian daily Al-Quds reported.
“Israel defies the Americans by promising them to slow settlement construction while actually expediting it. Therefore we must turn to the UN,” Ashrawi told the official Voice of Palestine Radio. “In my opinion, we should have turned to the UN before Secretary of State John Kerry launched his initiative, because Israel takes advantage of this process to expand settlements.”
The Palestinians committed not to appeal to international fora against Israel during the 9-month negotiation period in return for Israel’s release of 104 Palestinian prisoners detained before the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords in September 1993. The talks resumed in late July, and Israel has freed 52 of the prisoners, most of them jailed for terrorist killings, in two of four scheduled group releases.
Refusing to accept the negotiators’ resignation, PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared on November 17 that negotiations will run their full course “regardless of developments on the ground.”
That position did not prevent the Palestinian leader from harshly criticizing Israeli policies at the Afro-Arab summit in Kuwait earlier this week. During his speech Tuesday, Abbas said that Israel’s “routine” attacks on Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem presented “the greatest threat to the chances of peace in Palestine and the region.”