Saturday, August 21, 2010

Oh-Oh! Here Come Those Palestinian Preconditions Again...

Just when you thought it was safe to get back to the negotiating table, Aljazeera is reporting that the Palestinian Arabs are threatening that Settlements 'may halt' direct talks:
The Palestinian Authority has accepted an invitation from the United States to resume direct negotiations with Israel, but warned that it will withdraw if Israel builds more settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

The Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators - the UN, Russia, the EU and the US - said on Friday that it had invited Israeli and Palestinian leaders to attend talks in Washington on September 2.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, confirmed that the talks would be attended by Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

But after a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's (PLO) executive committee, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said that his side would not sit down with the Israelis if they resume building in the West Bank.

"If the Israeli government decides to announce new tenders on September 26, then we won't be able to continue with the talks," he said.

"We hope that the Israeli government will choose peace not settlements, will choose reconciliation and not the continuation of occupation."
The problem with this is that it is nothing more than an excuse--a demand that has never been made before, until Obama started requiring it.

As Jackson Diehl noted last year:
While further settlement expansion needs to be curbed, both the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments have gone along with previous U.S.-Israeli deals by which construction was to be limited to inside the periphery of settlements near Israel -- since everyone knows those areas will be annexed to Israel in a final settlement. Before the 2007 Annapolis peace conference organized by the Bush administration, Saudi Arabia and other Arab participants agreed to what one former senior official called "the Google Earth test"; if the settlements did not visibly expand, that was good enough.
The claim by Erekat is nothing more than a red herring, covering for the inability of Abbas and the PA to honestly negotiate for real peace.

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