Palestinian official: No talks while settlement construction continues

Meeting between negotiators Tuesday reportedly devolves into shouting match and ends without results

A worker at a construction site in the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim in March 2011 (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
A worker at a construction site in the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim in March 2011 (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority will not continue with peace talks as long as Israel continues building in the settlements, an unidentified Palestinian official said Wednesday, amid reports of possible logjams in the negotiations.

“The Israeli side is determined to continue its settlement and we cannot continue negotiations under these unprecedented settlement attacks,” the official told French news agency AFP after a contentious meeting between the two sides.

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators met for a sixteenth round of talks, but the talks quickly deteriorated into a shouting match with no discussion of the issues at hand.

Palestinian Authority negotiators were reportedly furious over what they called Israeli “lies” to the public about an agreement with the Palestinians to continue building in the settlements in exchange for the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners jailed since before the Oslo accords, an official told Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. The Israeli side took offense and the meeting broke down.

Israel announced last week that it would move forward thousands of units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, saying it had coordinated the move with Washington and Ramallah before talks began.

The divisive meeting came just as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, where he attended a wreath-laying ceremony commemorating prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination on November 4, 1995, ahead of a string of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

On Wednesday, Kerry is due to meet separately with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem. He will then meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem before returning to Jerusalem to meet with Netanyahu once more.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began official peace talks in mid-July, Numerous reports have surfaced in recent weeks that the negotiations are at a stall. The US State Department, which is managing the talks, maintains that progress is being made.

On Monday, Abbas said that despite all the meetings, “there hasn’t been any advancement in the talks with the Israelis.”

The talks began in late August after Israel agreed to release the 104 veteran prisoners. The PA had earlier demanded that Israel freeze settlement building before it would come to the table.

The approval of the homes over the Green Line came on the heels of the second of four planned prisoner releases, and was likely intended to appease hardliners in Israel’s government.

However, Abbas denied that there was any linkage between the two issues.

“The Israelis justify the expansion of settlements by releasing prisoners,” Abbas said. “They link the two issues, [and it] is likely to bring about the termination of the talks, without results.”

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