Israel-Palestinians: To Talk or Not to Talk


JERUSALEM, Israel -- Palestinian officials continued blaming Israel for the breakdown of talks Monday but one former Israeli ambassador says the Palestinian Authority is really just another name for the terrorist group, the PLO.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman accused Israel of "sabotaging the peace process by embarking on unilateral moves," an odd accusation considering the P.A.'s move to bypass a negotiated settlement by petitioning the U.N. early last week for membership in 15 international conventions.

The Palestinians blamed Israel's two-day delay to release the fourth and final group of 26 prisoners, which would have completed the 104 originally agreed upon. Meanwhile, the P.A. had threatened to abandon talks, while simultaneously upping its demands.

Those back-and-fourth negotiations continued over the weekend with Obama administration envoy Martin Indyk filling in for Secretary of State John Kerry.

In between accusations, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the P.A. stands behind its commitment to continue "peace talks" until the April 29 deadline of the nine-month U.S.-brokered talks.

"Our intention is to prevent the peace process from collapsing," Erekat told reporters over the weekend, saying it's "our intention to stand behind our commitment to continue peace talks until the end of [April]. If Israel returns to the negotiating track and releases the 30 [26] prisoners, we will stand behind our commitment to continue peace talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told cabinet ministers Sunday Israel is "ready to continue the talks but not at any price."

"The Palestinians' threat to appeal to the U.N. will not affect us," Netanyahu said. "The Palestinians have much to lose by this unilateral move. They will achieve a state only by direct negotiations, not by empty statements and not by unilateral moves. These will only push a peace agreement further away, and unilateral steps on their part will be met with unilateral steps on our part."

Even Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, chief negotiator for Israel, said Abbas needs to prove he's a genuine partner for peace.

Meanwhile, some analysts say the Palestinian Authority is not an authority at all but rather the face adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) -- considered a terrorist organization by Washington for decades -- during the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger says PLO is the more appropriate designation both in terms of its terrorist ideology and in its lack of responsible governance. The Palestinians reject the "existence" of Israel as the Jewish nation-state.

"The lesson is very clear," Ettinger told Algemeiner in an interview published last Thursday. "The Palestinian war on Israel is not due to Israel's policy or Israel's size. It has to do with the existence of the Jewish state, which leads to the most fundamental misperception and error here."

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