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Erekat Arrives in D.C., Says He’ll Negotiate With U.S.

But not with Israel; meantime, Blair says final-status talks are near

Michael Weiss
October 21, 2009
Erekat talking to George Mitchell in May.(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
Erekat talking to George Mitchell in May.(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

The Palestinian Authority is ready for talks with the United States but not with Israel, according to chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who arrived in Washington yesterday to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other U.S. officials. Erekat said the top priority for making any headway on a final-status agreement with Israel is precisely the one that President Obama has backed away from in recent weeks: halting all settlement construction, according to a Palestinian newspaper quoted in Haaretz. “There are no interim solutions,” Erekat said. “It’s not a precondition for negotiations, but an explicit Israeli commitment that they have to meet.” In itself that’s something of a climb-down for the Palestinians, who have previously said that a settlement freeze was indeed a precondition. Add this nuance to the Palestinan Authoirty’s decision to defer a vote on the controversial Goldstone Report—the U.N. Human Rights Council document that alleges Israel committed war crimes in Gaza—and you have at least a gasping rationale for why Tony Blair, the Quartet Mideast envoy, said in Hebron yesterday that final-status talks are only weeks away.