Further peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians could continue later this week, despite the recent resignation of senior figures from the Palestinian team, including chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.
A Palestinian source told Israel Radio on Monday that talks could resume without delay and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was seeking replacements to man his negotiating delegation over the coming two weeks.
Erekat and his team tendered their resignations last week in protest of an Israeli announcement on settlement construction. At the time, Abbas said that if he couldn’t convince the team to return to the table he would look for new members. As it happened, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly scuttled the planned construction.
Last week, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads Israel’s negotiation team, said she hoped the Palestinian resignations would not prevent talks from continuing.
Under heavy American pressure and following intense shuttle diplomacy by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks in July after a three-year hiatus, agreeing to a nine-month timeline set to expire in March 2014. For the duration of the talks, the Palestinians agreed to suspend their efforts for international recognition and to not pursue Israel in the international legal arena. Israel committed to freeing 104 Palestinian prisoners who committed their crimes before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. The second phase of that agreement was completed late last month.
On Sunday Abbas asserted that no matter what peace talks will continue until the end of the allotted nine months.
“We have committed to continue the negotiations for nine months, regardless of what happens on the ground,” he told the French AFP news agency without elaborating.
Meetings have been held out of sight of the media and with no official statements about the content or progress of the talks.
However, the negotiations have hit some hurdles so far, including an uptick in terror attacks perpetrated by Palestinians, with the latest incident occurring just last week when a 16-year-old Palestinian youth stabbed an 18-year-old IDF soldier to death while the latter was sleeping on a bus. Israel has also made continued announcements of planned construction in the settlements.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.