Monday, January 11, 2010

Palestinians reject U.S. call for resuming peace talks.

The Palestinians have made it very clear that they are losing faith in the Obama administrations handling of the proposed Israel Palestine peace negotiations.

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on Saturday rejected a U.S. call for resuming the stalled peace talks with Israel without preconditions, demanding a full settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Gaza Strip ruling Islamic Hamas movement warned the PNA against any resumption and cautioned that Israel will be the only beneficiary of the peace talks.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Xinhua in a telephone interview that it is unacceptable, "since the U.S. administration's calls don't include a total freeze of settlements in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, and don't include a timetable for resuming the talks."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday said that the United States is working with Israeli and Palestinian authorities, as well as Arab states, namely Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, to resume the peace negotiations "as soon as possible and without preconditions."

Without an end to settlement building it becomes impossible to believe that the Israelis are negotiating in good faith. What's to stop them negotiating forever whilst continuing to steal Palestinian land?

And what is the point of talks simply for the sake of talking? Does anyone seriously believe that Netanyahu wants a deal which involves giving the Palestinians land which the Israelis have already grabbed?

Why are Clinton and Obama falling for this Netanyahu trick that it is somehow unreasonable for the Palestinians to insist that settlement building stop? The demand that settlement building stop before negotiations can take place was actually an obligation Israel undertook when she signed the 2003 Roadmap for Peace, so Clinton is utterly wrong to portray that as a Palestinian precondition. Call it a President Bush precondition if you like.

But Erekat said that Clinton "neglected the Arab position" that Israel must halt the building of Jewish settlements all-over the West Bank as well as in the occupied East Jerusalem." Clinton also failed to "endorse the principle of the two-state solution," Erekat said.

"How should we negotiate on the Palestinian state's boundaries while the Israeli bulldozers and settlements are eating up the land that we want to build our state on?" Erekat said. "The settlement expansions must stop to give a chance for the negotiations to succeed."

Erekat stressed that the negotiations must restart from the point they stopped at during the era of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The peace talks came to a standstill when Israel launched a military offensive against the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and efforts to restart them have failed due to the continuation of Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

And, should the Palestinians agree to such talks without a halt to settlement building, does anyone believe that Netanyahu won't simply come up with another reason not to talk, such as the recognition of Israel by the Palestinians as a Jewish state?

Clinton and Obama are making the mistake of assuming that Netanyahu wants these talks. He doesn't. And appeasing him won't bring him to the table, it will make him think that his tactics are working - and let's face it, at the moment they are. The only thing which will affect Netanyahu is pressure. And that's the very thing which both Obama and Clinton appear reticent to apply.

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