THE Palestinian Presidency spokesperson, Nabil Abu-Rudaynah said yesterday, the decision of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on continuing settlement activity in East Jerusalem, proves that Israel continues to create obstacles to the peace process, and proves its lack of seriousness in moving towards peace.

Abu-Rudaynah said that that these actions do not contribute to creating the right environment for proximity talks but will lead to further stagnation.

He added that Israel is required to commit as had been agreed with the US and stop such acts, as well as create a climate which allows the continuation of proximity talks.

Fatah has also attacked the conduct of the Israeli state and settlers.

It said that, ‘the settlers’ assaults on Palestinian sanctities, the delivering of occupied Palestinian houses to settlers, and announcing construction in eastern Jerusalem are provocations that explode mines under the road of proximity talks and are attempts to embarrass the US Administration.’

The press statement issued by the Culture and Media commission in the Fatah Movement said: ‘It is obvious that the extremist right-wing government in Israel has tasked the settlers to blow up the proximity (indirect) talks after its announcements about settlement construction in the occupied eastern Jerusalem had impeded the road at a time when the Arab Follow-Up Committee and the Palestinian leadership responded positively to begin indirect negotiations.

‘Meanwhile, the Israeli Government also created in parallel a deep crisis with the US Administration last March.’

The statement added: ‘The Israeli Government is directly responsible before the international community for the hostile and provocative acts and actions of the settlers as they undermine the pledges submitted to the US Administration, in addition to the fact that they are organising hostile actions against the Palestinian people.’

Fatah affirmed that, ‘our people who look forward to a just peace show a massive steadfastness along with popular resistance what can allow them to stand fast against the hostile actions sponsored by and hinted at by Netanyahu’s Government.’

Fatah asked the US Administration to prove its ability to implement its vision for the two-state solution in the region and its keenness to preserve its interests in the region.

It urged the international community to prove its presence and to undertake clear and specific stands against the settlers’ provocations sponsored by the government of Netanyahu and Lieberman and to show its danger and negative impact on the peace process.

The Fatah statement mentioned that the authorities behind Israel’s Government are giving the green light to the settlers to attack the Palestinian citizens so that they can vent their anger against their government that is suffering a dilemma in its domestic and foreign policy and with the international community, particularly the US Administration.

The movement noted the Israeli police’s intention to hand over Arab centres that used to control Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, the announcement to construct 14 settlement housing units, following the announcement to commence the proximity talks, the storming carried out by about 500 settlers at dawn yesterday of Joseph’s Tomb located in the eastern part of the Nablus city, northern West Bank under the protection of the occupation army forces, the continued harassments practiced by extremist Jews against the Palestinian citizens in Silwan, Al-Bustan, Wadi Hilwah, Ayn al-Lawzah, Al-Harah al-Wustah, Wadi Qadum, and the attempts to create confrontations under the protection of the occupation army.

Fatah said in its statement that the announcement on the intention of construction or beginning to construct settlement units or any hostile actions or storming operations by the settlers or any military action by the occupation forces are provocations that will torpedo the track of the proximity (indirect) talks process.

• Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, alias Abu-Mazin, said that there is an obstacle standing in the way of resuming the proximity talks, which US Peace Envoy George Mitchell is conducting.

Abu-Mazin, who is currently in Jordan continuing the medical treatment of his back, added that the intentions were revealed from the beginning. In other words, he explained, shortly after beginning the negotiations, the Israelis said there was no understanding on halting the settlement activity, particularly in East Jerusalem.

‘This is a problem between them (the Israelis) and the Americans. We leave the task of resolving it to the Americans.’

Meanwhile, Saeb Erekat, head of the PLO Negotiations Department, who returned to the Palestinian territories from a visit to Cairo yesterday, commented: ‘What are taking place are not negotiations with Israel, but rather talks between us and the US side. A third party (Israel) entered these talks, which deal with the final-status issues – the borders, water, Jerusalem, refugees, and settlers, in addition to the release of the detainees.’

According to Erekat, who seemed nervous over people’s misunderstanding of what is happening, the focus at this current stage is on security and borders. He said: ‘We have nothing to do with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s proposals. He can say whatever he likes.’

Erekat added: ‘I tell the Arab world that people have the right to object to the peace process and to the negotiations ideologically. However, I do not know if they have the right to judge the credibility of, and attack the negotiations relying on, Netanyahu’s statements.’

l Moscow does not consider Hamas to be an artificial organisation, but a movement based on the trust and sympathies of a significant number of Palestinians, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko has said.

‘In the parliamentary election in the Palestinian territories in January 2006, acknowledged by the international community as honest and fair, Hamas, as we know, received the majority of votes,’ Nesterenko said in a statement published on Thursday 13 May.

‘Our contacts with this movement are regular in nature. It is known that all other members of the Middle East Quartet maintain contacts with Hamas leaders in one way or another, although they are reluctant to admit this publicly, for some reason,’ Nesterenko said.

The day before, the Israeli Foreign Ministry had expressed its displeasure over the meeting between the Russian president and head of the Hamas Political Bureau Khalid Mish’al.

‘Hamas is the same as Chechen terrorists’ and ‘Mish’al is the equivalent of Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev’, the Israeli Foreign Ministry was quoted as stating by the newspaper Ha’aretz.

At the meeting of the Russian and Syrian presidents, Dmitriy Medvedev and Bashar al-Asad, with head of the Hamas Political Bureau Khalid Mish’al on 11 May, they discussed restoring Palestinian unity as an inviolable condition for advancing the effectiveness of Palestinian-Israeli talks, Nesterenko said in his statement.

‘The focus was again on the need for the swift release of (Israeli) corporal Gil’ad Shalit,’ Nesterenko recalled.

‘The Russian side paid particular attention to strengthening efforts to support Palestinian-Israeli talks on the generally recognised international legal base, while avoiding disruptions and dangerous pauses which could aggravate tensions and spark off confrontation, and preventing any attempts to resort to violence,’ he said.

‘We are convinced that the unity of all Palestinians, and not the isolation of individual movements or groups, is the way to ensure the implementation of the demands of the international community contained in the corresponding United Nations Security Council resolutions, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the roadmap with regard to peace, stability and security for the Middle East, for all its countries and peoples,’ Nesterenko said.

Nesterenko stressed ‘the need for both the Palestinians themselves and those who can help them to step up efforts to normalise inter-Palestinian relations’.