Palestinians reject Netanyahu bid to define settlement blocs
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Palestinians reject Netanyahu bid to define settlement blocs

Spokesman says negotiations can only resume if Israel recognizes pre-1967 lines and East Jerusalem, releases prisoners

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, and Saeb Erekat speak to the press in Ramallah, on May 20, 2015. AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, and Saeb Erekat speak to the press in Ramallah, on May 20, 2015. AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)

The Palestinian Authority refuses to resume negotiations with Israel without Israeli recognition of the pre-1967 borders as the basis for talks and of East Jerusalem as the future Palestinian capital, a PA spokesman said on Tuesday, nixing a reported bid by Jerusalem to resume talks aimed at defining the borders of settlement blocs.

Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh was responding to comments attributed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini last week, in which the Israeli premier said his government was willing to define the boundaries of the main settlement blocs, within which construction would be allowed.

Abu Rudeineh countered that Israeli construction in the West Bank must stop entirely before peace talks can resume.

“Nothing relating to final status issues can be segmented or postponed,” Abu Rudeineh said in a statement published by official Palestinian news agency Wafa. “The basis for any negotiations must be recognition of the 1967 borders, Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state… along with a complete halt to settlement [construction] and the release of the fourth group of [security] prisoners jailed before Oslo.”

There was no immediate comment from Netanyahu’s office on the report of his comments or on the Palestinian response.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speak to the media on May 20, 2015. (AFP/POOL/DAN BALILTY)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini speak to the media on May 20, 2015. (AFP/POOL/DAN BALILTY)

Netanyahu has refused to recognize the pre-1967 lines as a basis for the future Palestinian borders, one of three conditions presented by Abbas ahead of the last round of negotiations, which fell apart in April 2014. Abbas subsequently reintroduced the demand, calling for full Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line within three years.

Israel has instead consistently negotiated under the assumption that certain large settlement blocs would become part of Israel, in exchange for land swaps under a negotiated deal with the Palestinians.

According to Haaretz, which first reported on Netanyahu’s comments to Mogherini, Jerusalem suggested resuming talks aimed at defining what those settlement blocs would be.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Tuesday that Netanyahu’s comments were merely geared at “legitimizing the settlements internationally and in the eyes of Palestinians.”

“By calling for an outline of the settlements, [Netanyahu] wishes to legitimize the continuation of settlements … we reject this outright, as it goes against everything achieved by international law.”

Erekat’s comments echoed those of PLO official Hanan Ashrawi, who called Netanyahu’s move “a blatant ploy to steal and annex the lands of the state of Palestine.”

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