Israeli-Palestinian Talks Postponed Until October

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INDIRECT talks between Palestinian and Israeli officials will continue in the last week of October, a senior Hamas official said on Tuesday.

Izzat al-Rishaq said that talks ended Tuesday and both sides presented their demands to be discussed in the next round of negotiations.

The Palestinian delegation demanded a permanent truce and ceasefire, the rebuilding of an airport and seaport, and the suspension of all sanctions imposed by Israel since June, including the release of rearrested prisoners and Palestinian MPs.

Earlier, senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahhar had said that the Palestinian delegation decided to go ahead with indirect ceasefire talks in Cairo despite deadly violence overnight.

‘After consultations between the delegation and Hamas officials both in Gaza and abroad, a decision was taken to go ahead with Cairo talks,’ Zahhar said.

His remarks followed reports that the Palestinian delegation in Cairo was considering withdrawing from the talks after Israeli forces killed two Palestinians suspected of kidnapping three Israeli settler youths in June.

Senior Hamas negotiator Izzat al-Rishaq said the Palestinian team had been headed to the headquarters of the Egyptian intelligence service which mediates the talks when they learned of the Hebron incident and had turned back in protest.

Al-Rishaq said the killings overnight were a deliberate attempt to avoid further ceasefire negotiations.

Senior Hamas official Salah Bardawil blamed security coordination between Israel and the PA for the killings, saying that ‘this assassination couldn’t have succeeded without security coordination in the West Bank’.

For his part, Islamic Jihad leader Khalid al-Batsh said: ‘The Israeli occupation deliberately chose to carry out the assassination in Hebron today in an attempt to foil the indirect Egypt-brokered ceasefire talks sponsored scheduled to be resumed today.’

The Palestinian delegation, he said, is convinced that the ‘ugly’ operation Israeli forces carried out in Hebron at dawn came to ‘cover up for what has been committed since the three Israeli teens disappeared in Hebron, and to thwart indirect ceasefire talks which seek to end the suffering of the Palestinian people’. The Israeli delegation arrived earlier on Tuesday, said an official at Cairo airport.

Amer Abu Aisha and Marwan Qawame were killed overnight following a gunfight after Israeli forces surrounded a property they were hiding in.

Speaking on the plane to Cairo, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said that the Palestinian leadership has growing desires, which could go as far as taking a decision by the Palestinian leadership to turn to the UN institutions and courts in November without paying attention to Israel’s threats and the hints by the United States against him.

During unofficial conversations on board the presidential plane, he did not rule out the possibilities of taking potential steps to respond to the settlement projects that the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tried to implement in the West Bank following the recent war on Gaza.

In view of the difficult and serious conditions of the citizens in Gaza, the president refused to give out promises and illusions in the press to the Gaza population out of fear of letting them down once again.

However, he said that ‘the reconstruction of Gaza is possible through the national accord government and cooperation between Hamas and the PLO, and this should be agreed upon quickly between the Hamas and Fatah delegations in Cairo’.

Asked how and with what tools the Gaza reconstruction will be implemented, the president refused to make any statements to the press. He said: ‘The conference on the Gaza reconstruction will be held on 12 October and in the event the PNA is allowed to return to Gaza, the issue of the seaport and airport will be one of the next priorities.’

Abbas will meet with Egyptian President Abd-al-Fattah al-Sisi in New York. This will be their 13th meeting, and the issue of the Rafah Crossing and illegal immigration will not be absent from the discussion despite the fact that the meeting will be a political one par excellence.

It is also not known yet whether there will be meetings between them and US President Obama and Iranian President Rouhani.

For his part, Nazmi Muhanna, Gaza’s director general of the crossings, said: ‘The Border Crossings Department is working on two issues now.

‘The first, is to ensure that expired or poor quality materials do not enter the Strip and to confront the war mongers who are trying to exploit the fact that Gaza is a disaster area and import materials whose validity is about to expire, or construction material and aluminium that do not meet the quality specifications.

‘The second issue is to prepare files that pertain to the seaport, airport, and the Gaza-West Bank Crossing and present them to the Palestinian negotiator at the negotiations table.’

Meanwhile, officials close to Palestinian Prime Minister Al-Hamdallah have affirmed that he will inform the donors’ conference at the United Nations that the PNA cannot alone implement the Gaza reconstruction and will need UN assistance.

Also, Abbas has not shown any satisfaction with the US position that is preoccupied with fighting Da’ish (Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL) at the expense of the Palestinian issue.

He was said to be also following the minutest details concerning the post-war Israeli government’s crisis and in his speech to the UN will refer to its miserable failure in making peace.

For his part, Foreign Minister Dr Riyad al-Maliki has not denied that the Palestinian Foreign Ministry is working on preparing the signing of the Rome Document before the end of this year.

He also said that Israel will regret the precious time it has wasted by its arrogance and intransigence and its attempt to appease the right-wing parties in Israel.

Dr Majdi al-Khalidi, the president’s political affairs adviser, expressed optimism over the outcome of the president’s meeting with French President Hollande.

He said that the leadership is working on achieving an unprecedented breakthrough in the European position if France, Italy, Germany, and Britain recognised the Palestinian state before the end of this year.

Abbas was cited as expressing, according to those close to him, his deep indignation at the US ‘cool’ stand on the Palestinian cause and its preoccupation with regional issues and distancing itself from playing a pivotal role in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations while those close to Abbas stressed ‘there is only one option left’, that of dissolving the PNA and having recourse to the UN to have it assume its role and shoulder its responsibilities in the region.

They said that the president in many of his meetings with many foreign and Arab officials voiced frustration and indignation at the US failure to respond to the Palestinian demands.

Palestinian politicians described Abbas’ recent meetings held with US Administration officials as ‘not being within the expectations President Abu-Mazin (Abbas) nurtured of hearing serious statements and seeing positive signs on the level of enhancing the US role in the region and intervening during the negotiations to commit Israel to the negotiations process’.

PNA political circles in Ramallah expressed disappointment with any forthcoming negotiations with the Israeli side while voices were raised calling for holding presidential and legislative elections expeditiously, putting the Palestinian house in order, and implementing the reconciliation provisions in accordance with the Cairo agreement signed between the PLO and Hamas delegations.

Official Palestinian quarters are exerting intensive efforts to seek solutions as a way out of the negotiations dilemma with Israel while other quarters believe ‘there is no choice but to negotiate with the Israeli side’.

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials said that the US Administration told Abbas via US Secretary of State John Kerry that he should hurry up and form a new Palestinian delegation for future negotiations, and that this delegation should include new Palestinian figures, because the US Administration strongly opposes including Saeb Erekat again in future negotiations.

The officials said that Abbas listened to what Kerry told him about the Palestinian delegation. They said that Kerry told him to change and replace Saeb Erekat with other Palestinian negotiators and that the new delegation should represent all the Palestinian factions included in the PLO.

l Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet over the Golan Heights on Tuesday, the army said, claiming that it had crossed the ceasefire line into the Israeli-occupied sector.

It was the most serious incident to take place on the strategic plateau since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

‘A warplane that penetrated Israeli territory was successfully shot down a short while ago by the air defence systems along the Syrian border,’ an Israeli military statement said, without giving further details.

Army radio said it was apparently a MiG-21 fighter jet which was shot down by a surface-to-air Patriot missile, with the wreckage landing on the Syrian-controlled side of the plateau.

The downing came just three weeks after Israel shot down a drone over the Golan as heavy fighting raged on the Syrian side, most of which has been seized by rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

The Assad regime has been hitting back with frequent air strikes in a bid to retake control of the plateau. Some have been close to Israeli positions.

Israel seized 460 square miles of the Golan during the Six-Day War of 1967, then annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognised by the international community.

Some 200 square miles of the Golan remain on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line, with UN forces overseeing a buffer zone stretching some 45 miles from Lebanon in the north to Jordan in the south.