Top Palestinian Authority (PA) figures are downplaying the significance of Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent announcement that a “basis” had been established for renewing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Spokespeople for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are explaining that that an upcoming three-way meeting in Washington will be at best exploratory in nature:
Contradicting Secretary of State John Kerry, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement late Sunday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to send a delegate to Washington merely to continue lower-level preliminary talks with an Israeli counterpart about the terms for negotiations. A second Abbas spokesman, Yasser Abed Rabbo, had made similar comments earlier Sunday. Abu Rudeineh and Abed Rabbo are the only Palestinian officials authorized to speak on the matter.
Rabbo’s statement emphasized Palestinian preconditions that have consistently stymied talks and generated significant tension between the PA and the State Department.
Meanwhile Abbas himself is already preparing for the day after negotiations fail, raising the threat of “other options” and referencing last last year’s upgrade of the Palestinian status at the United Nations to non-member statehood. The Palestinians have leveraged that status to attack Israel in international forums, and Abbas is threatening more of the same:
In his comments, Abbas did not name his other options, but referred to last year’s upgrade of the Palestinian status at the UN. At the time, the General Assembly accepted Palestine as a nonmember observer state, in a largely symbolic gesture that was vehemently opposed by Israel and the US but overwhelmingly endorsed by the Assembly. Palestinian officials have said that in the absence of negotiations with Israel, they would seek further UN recognition, including membership in UN agencies and possible redress against Israeli policies at the International Criminal Court.
The PA’s religious affairs minister even implied in a Friday sermon that any peace treaty signed with Israel would apply to Palestinians only temporarily. Speaking on PA television, and with Abbas and other top Palestinian officials in attendance, Mahmoud al-Habbash cited Islamic precedent to insinuate that any Mideast peace deal could ultimately be overturned:
The Hudaybiyyah peace treaty was a 10-year truce that Muhammad, Islam’s Prophet, made with the Quraish Tribe of Mecca. However, two years into the truce, Muhammad attacked and conquered Mecca. The PA Minister of Religious Affairs stressed in his Friday sermon that Muhammad’s agreeing to the Hudaybiyyah treaty was not “disobedience” to Allah, but was “politics” and “crisis management.” The minister emphasized that in spite of the peace treaty, two years later Muhammad “conquered Mecca.” He ended his comparison by expressing the view that the Hudaybiyyah agreement is not just past history, but that “this is the example and this is the model.”
The Palestinian Media Watch watchdog group – which translated, transcribed and distributed the footage of Habbash – noted that Abbas’s predecessor Yasser Arafat frequently referred to Muhammad’s annulment of the so-called Hudaybiyyah treaty as a model for Palestinians.