PLO: No peace talks unless Israel commits to West Bank pullout

Top official Wasil Abu Yousef demands timeline for evacuation from contested territory, says US is biased in favor of Jewish state

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of IDF soldiers walking on a street in the West Bank city of Hebron, June 19, 2014. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
Illustrative photo of IDF soldiers walking on a street in the West Bank city of Hebron, June 19, 2014. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

A Palestine Liberation Organization official stated Wednesday that the Palestinian leadership would only engage in another round of peace negotiations with Israel if presented with a detailed timeline specifying a series of steps towards a full Israeli pullout from the West Bank.

Speaking with the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Wasel Abu-Youssef emphasized that the Palestinian leadership would not compromise on the matter and would not agree to US mediation unless the aforementioned timeline were set, Israel Radio reported.

He further asserted that Washington held a clear bias in favor of Israel and that the Palestinians were therefore wary of US involvement in peace negotiations between the two parties.

Abu-Youssef said the PLO’s decision came following the establishment of Israel’s new government, which the Palestinian official deemed to be far more likely to advance Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank than the last, according to Israel Radio. “The political horizon with the new settler government is completely shut,” Abu-Youssef concluded.

On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama said he looks to the incoming Israeli government and the Palestinians to show a “genuine commitment to a two-state solution” and added that an agreement would have to resolve the humanitarian conflict caused by last summer’s war in the Gaza Strip.

Obama’s relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been fraught with tension over the impasse in talks between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as over the terms of the emerging nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Netanyahu succeeded in cementing a right-wing coalition with a razor-thin majority last week, almost two months after winning an election. His coalition partners are largely opposed to a two-state solution, and comments he made before the election have cast doubt on his own commitment to an accord that would lead to Palestinian statehood. Netanyahu’s new government is set to include ministers intent on expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank and construction in East Jerusalem, an issue that has repeatedly hampered peace talks.

During campaigning for the March 17 election, Netanyahu ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state if reelected. Netanyahu later backtracked on those remarks, saying he still supported a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution.

Stuart Winer and AFP contributed to this report.

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