PLO official: Israel asked US out of negotiating room

Hanan Ashrawi claims Israel doesn’t want the Americans as witnesses in order to ‘exploit their power over the Palestinians’

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

A PLO official accused Israel on Thursday of undermining negotiations by demanding the removal of the Americans from the negotiation room in a bid “to exploit their power over the Palestinians.”

“We had an agreement on three-way negotiations. The Americans from the beginning were supposed to be there. I don’t see why the Israelis don’t want the Americans there, as witnesses,” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told The Times of Israel. “These are not two-way negotiations,” she added.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met secretly at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel on Tuesday, Israeli officials said. A second meeting, held at a secret location the same day, reportedly included Washington’s representative to the talks Martin Indyk.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev refused to comment on Ashrawi’s statements, saying Israel was bound by an agreement with the Americans not to divulge the contents of talks.

But Ashrawi indicated that her comments did not breach those understandings.

Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi (photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“I’m not discussing the details or the facts,” she said. “I’m just telling you it’s the Israelis who don’t want the Americans, even though the Americans are totally biased in favor of Israel.”

Asked why she believed the Israelis would request the removal of a party favorable to them, Ashrawi said that “they feel they can exploit their power over the Palestinians.”

Ashrawi was not the first Palestinian official to reveal tensions between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators behind the scenes. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Israeli Arab A-Shams radio on Tuesday that senior Israeli ministers were constantly undermining talks by building settlements and publishing disinformation.

Secretary of State John Kerry has repeatedly stressed the need for secrecy surrounding talks, a condition the Israeli negotiators have largely adhered to.

“The talks resumed. No photo opp. No statements. Why? To allow the teams to work together, and not think about the media waiting outside,” Livni spokesperson Mia Bengel tweeted last Wednesday.

No comment was available from the State Department at time of publication.

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