Clinton to Abbas: Resume peace talks with no preconditions

Monday, November 2, 2009

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Palestinian negotiators yesterday that they should resume talks with Israeli negotiators without the preconditions that Israel stop all settlement building in the occupied territories. Mrs. Clinton's statements came after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told Israeli negotiators that all negotiations would be postponed until Israel stopped building settlement houses in Palestinian territory.

Secretary of State Clinton praised what she called "unprecedented" concessions on settlement building in the occupied territories. Clinton went on to add, "There has never been a precondition [to stop settlements]. It's always been an issue within the negotiations."

Palestinian negotiators responded to these statements by saying, "The negotiations are in a state of paralysis, and the result of Israel's intransigence and America's back-pedaling is that there is no hope of negotiations on the horizon."

The concessions Mrs. Clinton referred to were part of an earlier offer by Israeli negotiators that would have stopped some settlement building in the West Bank and would have made no deal concerning Israeli expansion into hotly contested East Jerusalem. Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu attacked Palestinians blaming them for failing to reach peace agreements, "We have shown a willingness to do unprecedented things to relaunch the process. But we are encountering the opposite from the Palestinians. We are encountering preconditions from the Palestinians that haven't been set in all the 16 years of the peace process."

Avika Eldar of Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper complained that settlement building during negotiations changes "facts on the ground". He added, "The fact that there was no precedent actually demonstrates why there are now 300,000 settlers living in the West Bank and just 16 years ago when the Oslo Agreement was launched there were 109,000 settlers."

The fact remains, however, that as each day passes the Palestinians have less and less land to bargain with.