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Palestinians Won’t Budge on Talks with US, Israel

Palestinians Won’t Budge on Talks with US, Israel

Experts, officials: PA cannot resume negotiations unless annexation plan canceled

Despite recent efforts to bring about a resumption of peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli and American sides, West Bank officials tell The Media Line this will not happen unless Israel and the US back down on their latest unilateral steps.

This after Mahmoud al-Aloul, the vice president of the Fatah movement, the ruling party in the West Bank, told reporters on Wednesday that “unnamed parties” were attempting to broker a return to the negotiations that stopped in 2014.

Nevertheless, Aloul stressed that Palestinians were ready to meet with anyone, but absolutely not on the basis of the “so-called American peace plan” known as the deal of the century, nor on the basis of Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Prof. Abdul Haj Ibrahim, the former head of the Political Science Department at Birzeit University, near Ramallah, told The Media Line that despite the lack of clarity regarding peace talks, the Palestinian leadership would not commit to any negotiations with Israel unless it had guarantees that the latter “was ready to give them their rights.

“However, the settlement expansion is still on, and now the new Israeli annexation plan is still on. Therefore there’s no need to resume talks, as they would be of no avail and a distraction,” Haj Ibrahim said.

He added that it would be extremely difficult for the Palestinian leadership to back down on its position, as that would render any negotiations meaningless. “The PA would have to forget the Palestinian national project of establishing an independent Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, and that is off the table. No one would accept it.”

Any attempt to bring the Palestinian leadership, Israel and US closer without guarantees would therefore be ludicrous, as the PA could never change its stance, Haj Ibrahim said.

“[Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu has a domestic crisis related to lack of trust in him, in addition to the coronavirus crisis and the corruption cases against him. Consequently, Netanyahu is trying to ‘export’ these issues to the external arena,” the professor continued.

“Netanyahu wants to show the Israelis that he has solutions to a more difficult issue, which is the conflict with the Palestinians, as a tool of distraction. The Palestinian political arena provides Israel’s officials a tool for distraction,” he said.

Ghassan Khatib, a professor of political science and cultural studies at Birzeit University, explained to The Media Line that Palestinian approval to resume the negotiations was conditioned on having a new international mediator replace the US in the role, and on halting the expansion of the settlements.

“Now regarding the resumption of talks with the American administration, that’s related to the latter’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which was a violation of the Oslo agreement that included Jerusalem as a subject for negotiations,” Khatib said.

Washington’s removal of the issue of Jerusalem as an issue for negotiation had led to the Palestinian boycott of the US administration, as had moving the American Embassy to Israel to the city, he said.

“As for the severance of ties with the Israeli side, it was a reaction to the annexation plan, and unless it cancels its project, there will be no resumption of talks,” Khatib said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas halted security cooperation with Israel in May of this year, after its announced plans to annex some or all of its West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley. The PA imposed a boycott on the Trump Administration after the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

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