Why Is Saeb Erekat Now Refusing to Negotiate?

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Palestinian delaying tactics are killing exploratory peace talks in Jordan. The Daily Telegraph‘s Con Coughlin explains how and why:

Most people in the West believe the main reason the talks are not going anywhere is because of Israel’s refusal to compromise on its settlement building programme.

But while the Netanyahu government’s insistence on building settlements is certainly an obstacle, I am told by Western diplomats close to the exploratory talks that are currently taking place in Jordan between the two sides that the real reason they are running into difficulty is because the Palestinian delegation, led by the veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, is refusing to take the talks seriously.

For example, I am told by a Western diplomat working for the Quartet that when the Israeli delegation arrived for a meeting last weekend in Amman, the Jordanian capital, to present their latest security proposals, Mr Erekat simply refused to enter the room.

And what does that mean?

Mr Erekat’s refusal to enter the negotiating room and hear what the Israelis had to say does not bode well for the Quartet’s attempts to get the two sides to resume full negotiations, and raises questions about just how serious the Palestinians are about getting a peace deal. With Israel feeling increasingly isolated as world attention focuses on the fall-out from the recent revolts in Libya, Egypt and Syria, there is a growing suspicion among Western diplomats that the Palestinians are working on the basis that, if they draw out the process, they will be able to strike a better deal with Israel.

If that is the case, then they are badly mistaken. The real enemy in the Middle East today is Iran, not Israel, and by playing into the hands of Islamist militants who seek Israel’s destruction, the Palestinians could see their cause being overtaken by a far greater regional conflict.

Low-key exploratory talks are an opportunity for Mahmoud Abbas to climb down from a high tree after insisting on a total settlement freeze as a precondition for talks. Yet the Palestinians instead choose to blow off Israel, Jordan and the Quartet.

Two years ago, David Ignatius discovered that doing nothing is Mahmoud Abbas’s game plan. He’s still sticking to it.

(Image via YouTube/RepKeithEllison)

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