‘Palestinian negotiating team announces resignation’

Letter from Erekat and Ishtayeh says move due to Israeli intention to demolish 20 homes in east Jerusalem, report says

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

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)

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and a second negotiator, Mohammed Ishtayeh, tendered their resignation to PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, following Israel’s announcement that it intends to demolish 20 Arab-owned buildings in east Jerusalem, a Palestinian news agency reported.

“Knowledgeable sources” told Ma’an news agency that the resignation letters were placed on Abbas’s table, and were pending his decision.

The move comes amid reports this week of Israeli approval of 5,000 new housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and three days ahead of a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss final-status issues as part of a Middle Eastern tour next week.

The resignation could not be independently confirmed by The Times of Israel and was not reported in official Palestinian media.

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.

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