PA: Israel undermined peace process first with ‘unilateral moves’
BETHLEHEM – A spokesperson for Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel on Sunday of undermining the peace process first, minutes after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Palestinians of making “unilateral moves” that had harmed the talks.
Nabil Abu Rdeina told Ma’an on Sunday that “it was Israel who took unilateral steps to thwart the peace process,” pointing out that Israel precipitated the current impasse in the talks by refusing to release the fourth batch of veteran Palestinian prisoners jailed before the Oslo Accords as had been previously agreed upon.
Abu Rdeina added that Israel has continued to expand settlements in the West Bank throughout the peace process, which also constitutes a unilateral move to undermine hopes for peace.
The statements came immediately after Israeli prime minister Netanyahu responded to the growing negotiations crisis on Sunday, accusing Palestinians of undermining the talks through “empty declarations” and “unilateral actions” at the beginning of the weekly government cabinet meeting according to Israeli media.
Other Israeli officials also denounced the moves, with strategic affairs minister Yuval Steinitz going so far as to say that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas was “spitting” in Israelis’ faces by trying to join international rights conventions.
“Unilateral steps by the Palestinians will be answered with unilateral steps on our part,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying by Israeli news site Ynet, in his first public comments on the deterioration of talks in recent days.
“The Palestinians will get a state only though direct negotiations, and not through empty declarations, nor through unilateral actions that will only keep the peace agreement further away,” he added during the meeting.
The comments come after the Palestinian Authority submitted letters to accede to a number of international conventions after Israel failed to release a group of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails for more than two decades. Israeli leaders condemned the move, decrying Palestinian attempts at international recognition and potential intervention.
“Throughout these talks, we have taken tough steps and demonstrated willingness to continue executing difficult in the upcoming months as well to create a framework to allow ending the conflict.”
“Unfortunately, as we approached the talks’ deadline, the Palestinian leadership rushed to unilaterally join 14 international treaties. Thus the Palestinians significantly violated the agreements that were achieved. The threats to turn to the UN do not affect us. The Palestinians have plenty to lose in a unilateral step.”
Netanyahu’s comments followed remarks from other top Israeli politicians slamming the Palestinian Authority’s move.
Economy Minister and right-wing Jewish Home party chairman Naftali Bennett was quoted by Ynet as saying that the Palestinians “shut down the negotiations by unilaterally going to the UN against all agreements. This is a flagrant violation of the accords, including the Oslo Accords. The negotiations with the Palestinians, even though they only turned unilaterally to the UN, makes the State of Israel a shelter for extortion.”
“If the seller runs off with the merchandise, you don’t need to chase him — cash in hand — begging to buy his goods. In short, if they retract the UN application we’ll negotiate, and if they don’t the negotiations must stop.”
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz joined the critical remarks against the Palestinians, and said: “Truth be told, (Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas is spitting in our faces, he tells us he is not interested in peace, he is willing to recognize the existence of the Jewish people and its right to its own state, and now he shuts down the negotiations,” according to Ynet.
“This Palestinian Authority exists thanks to us. Not only because of the Oslo Accords, but because of the funds we transfer them, and the security we give them. Otherwise, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as they control Gaza, would also taken down Abbas and take over Ramallah.”
The statements come amid a wider breakdown in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that followed Israel’s refusal to release the fourth batch of veteran Palestinian prisoners as promised as part of a trust-building measure to restart US-backed peace talks.
Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians were relaunched in July under the auspices of the United States after nearly three years of impasse, but over the course of the talks Israel has announced plans to build thousands of homes in illegal settlements across the West Bank, angering Palestinian and US officials.
Israeli officials now fear that the Palestinian Authority may attempt to appeal to international bodies against Israeli policies.
The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
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