So, have Arab-Israeli peace talks collapsed?

An email, purportedly from the PLO, states that the Palestinian negotiations team has resigned, leaving the future of talks with Israel seemingly unclear

Stuart Littlewood

Published: Updated:

The bombshell below appeared on my computer screen “out of the blue,” purporting to be from the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department and relayed by the embassy in London.

I could find nothing about it on the PLO or Palestine Mission UK websites. So I called the London embassy, to find nobody in to confirm or deny it! The ambassador’s secretary said there was a meeting with the UK Foreign Office and everyone was probably there.

Press Release: Statement on Resignation of Palestinian Negotiations Team

In reference to the latest reports concerning the resignation of the Palestinian negotiations team from the final status negotiations, the PLO – Negotiations Affairs Department would like to announce the following:

1) Several days ago, Dr. Saeb Erekat and Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh wrote to H.E. President Mahmoud Abbas explaining that they would not be able to continue fulfilling their duties as negotiators, and thereby requesting that the President relieve them of their positions. This request was motivated by a number of factors, including: an unprecedented escalation of colonization and oppression against Palestine and the Palestinian people by the State of Israel; a lack of seriousness from the Israeli government about reaching a two-state solution; and the Israeli government’s failure to fulfill commitments undertaken before the resumption of direct negotiations on July 29, 2013.

2) Of particular concern was the Israeli government’s political use of the release of pre-Oslo prisoners in order to advance its illegal and profoundly damaging settlement enterprise throughout the occupied State of Palestine. This, combined with the false allegation that an agreement between the PLO and Israel was made in order to exchange prisoners for settlements, has demonstrated bad faith and a severe lack of integrity on the Israeli side.

3) The resignation of the Palestinian negotiators was presented after Israel had already approved 6,296 settlement units during the first three months of negotiations. This figure is higher than the total amount of settlement units approved during the five months prior to the resumption of negotiations (5,577 units). The resignation was not presented as a response to the latest announcement by the Israeli Ministry of Housing to advance almost 20,000 settlement units, but as a response to several policies that continue to undermine the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution, including accelerated settlement activity. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call to “reconsider steps for evaluating planning potential” in illegal Israeli settlements does not halt the thousands of units Israel has approved, and continues to approve, in the occupied State of Palestine.

4) This resignation relates only to the current negotiations team: it does not invalidate the commitment made by the Palestine Liberation Organization to continue negotiations until the end of the 9 month period agreed with Israel and the US, which ends on April 29, 2014.

5) The Palestinian leadership will continue its process of internal consultations and its contacts with the Arab League, Russia, the European Union, the United Nations and the United States, along with other international partners, in order to advance the cause for a just peace between Israel and Palestine, which includes ending the 1967 Israeli occupation and reaching a solution to all final status issues based on international law.

Questions for Mr. Hague

Still wondering if it was genuine, I wrote to my MP Henry Bellingham suggesting that if the bulletin was true, the so-called peace talks appeared to have collapsed.

Negotiators Erekat and Shtayyeh had resigned because of the “unprecedented escalation of colonization and oppression against Palestine and the Palestinian people by the State of Israel,” and because the Israelis clearly weren’t serious about reaching a solution and had failed to fulfill previous commitments.

I remarked that everyone knew the charade was designed to buy time to create more irreversible ‘facts on the ground’ in order to make Israel’s occupation - or at least domination - permanent. The wonder was that it took so long for the Palestinians to become disgusted enough to walk away.

If the “process” ever had smidge of credibility (which of course it didn’t) it is surely blown away by the resignations

Stuart Littlewood

I asked Mr. Bellingham to please put the following questions to the foreign secretary:

Firstly, why has Her Majesty’s Government continually pushed the Palestinians into direct negotiations with their oppressor knowing full well the Israelis’ track record of conducting these matters in bad faith?

And secondly, since it is obvious that no peace can be sustained unless underpinned by justice and the rule of international law, will HMG now recommend the Palestinians take their claims to the International Criminal Court and help enforce the outcome with trade or other sanctions until compliance is achieved?

As a fog of uncertainty (and silence) descended on the London end I also emailed the PLO: “Does this mean the peace talks have collapsed? Can anyone be found to continue them - if so who are the new negotiators? And what reasons are there to still delay taking Palestine’s claims to the International Criminal Court?” Quick as a flash the PLO replied...

1) The statement is clear: This involves only the negotiations team, not the negotiations process.

2) The president, in consultation with the leadership, will take a decision regarding the future of the negotiations team. The president has said publicly that he is trying to convince the current team to stay, but if they refuse, he will nominate a new team.

3) The only reason for not ratifying the Rome Statue, as well as other international treaties, is an agreement with the Israeli side to free 104 pre-Oslo prisoners during nine months in return of not joining new international treaties or UN institutions. The nine months end on April 29, 2014.

Who are they kidding? Note the blackmail regarding the prisoners. What a rotten, evil, shabby deal - and all rubber-stamped by the grinning Western powers! If the “process” ever had smidge of credibility (which of course it didn’t) it is surely blown away by the resignations.


Stuart Littlewood is a marketing specialist turned writer-photographer in the UK. He is a regular contributor to Al Arabiya English website and the author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.