Top PA official: We haven’t agreed to negotiate yet

Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of only two authorized spokespeople, says Palestinians still in discussion with the US

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

PLO Central Committee Secretary Yasser Abed Rabbo (photo credit: Flash90/Issam Rimawi)
PLO Central Committee Secretary Yasser Abed Rabbo (photo credit: Flash90/Issam Rimawi)

The Palestinian leadership has not yet decided to return to negotiations with Israel and will only do so if its basic demands are met, a senior PLO official said on Sunday.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of only two Palestinian officials authorized to comment on the negotiations with Israel (along with PA presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh), told Palestinian radio that the PA leadership was currently engaged in dialogue with the American administration, and would only announce the resumption of negotiations depending on the outcome of those talks.

A number of issues were still pending for talks between Israelis and Palestinians in Washington later in the week, during which a framework for negotiations would be created, he added.

Abed Rabbo’s comments, which directly contradict Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement Friday of Israeli and Palestinian agreement to resume talks, reflected an atmosphere of deep Palestinian skepticism regarding the prospect of negotiations with Israel. An op-ed Sunday in the official Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam dubbed US Secretary of State John Kerry “a master of self-deception,” claiming that both sides agreed to meet in Washington only to please the American official, knowing that nothing of substance would come of the talks.

Another Palestinian official, Fatah Central Committee member Mohammed Ishtayeh, said in a press release Sunday that negotiations could only resume following an Israeli commitment to recognize the 1967 lines as the basis for a future Palestinian state, to release prisoners, and to freeze building in the settlements — preconditions that Israel has rejected.

A Western official told The New York Times on Saturday that there would be no Israeli recognition of the 1967 lines as a basis for talks, contradicting a Palestinian official who told AP that Abbas had received a letter of guarantee from Secretary of State John Kerry to that effect.

According to Fatah Central Command member Abbas Zaki, American pressure on Abbas to resume talks with Israel was compounded by Arab pressure.

“America views the region through Israeli eyes,” the Palestinian official told Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood newspaper As-Sabeel. “It is uninterested in freezing settlements or in a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.”

Zaki denied that a Palestinian delegation set to head for Washington later this week was tasked with relaunching negotiations.

“The visit is nothing more than consultations; it has nothing to do with launching negotiations,” he added.

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