Skip to main content

Palestinian negotiating team resigns

By Kareem Khadder. Ian Lee and Tom Watkins, CNN
November 13, 2013 -- Updated 2346 GMT (0746 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "No one is really concerned," says a senior U.S. administration official
  • Settlement plans rendered the talks "irrelevant," says Ashrawi
  • Move comes a day after Israel cancels settlement plans
  • "Netanyahu has a choice: settlements or peace," Erakat says

(CNN) -- The Palestinian negotiating team has resigned and will not participate in peace talks with the Israelis, a spokesman for the Palestinian mission to the United Nations told CNN Wednesday.

"The team resigned due to the Israeli illegal practices, especially settlement activities," Rabii Hantouli said in an e-mail. "There are efforts to convince them to revert."

"It is time for the international community and the Quartet members to stop treating Israel as a government above the laws of man and hold them accountable," Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erakat told Al Jazeera America. He was referring to the United Nations, Russia, United States and European Union's peace efforts.

Settlement building in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank is "the issue that will make or break the negotiations," he said. "(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu has a choice: settlements or peace; he can't have both."

Kerry prods Israel, Palestinians on peace
Will prisoner release aid peace process?
Palestinian prisoners released

READ: Israeli-Palestinian relations hit new snags as Kerry visits Jerusalem

Ending the talks would be a blow to efforts by the Obama administration to get long-stalled discussions back on track.

But a senior administration official downplayed the news, saying that Erakat had issued that threat in the past, and that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas -- "the man in charge" -- has said that he is committed to the U.S.-brokered Mideast peace negotiations with Israel.

"We've seen Saeb Erakat do this before where he'd threaten to resign because he's not happy with the way talks are going but ... he ends up taking it back and continuing with the negotiations," the official told CNN. "If this ends up being a real resignation this time, which again we don't know, but if it is, we expect the negotiations will continue."

The official added, "We have to see how it plays out" but "no one is really concerned about it at this point."

READ: Obama focuses foreign policy on Iran and Middle East peace talks

The negotiators submitted their resignations to Abbas, Hanan Ashrawi told CNN in an interview in Ramallah on the West Bank.

"Reason is that they believe that there is too much pressure coming from the Americans," she said.

"The talks can be resumed and successful if the Americans can rectify the flaw of Israeli exceptionalism and impunity by bringing Israel into compliance with international law and cessation of all settlement activity.

"It will be very difficult to find any Palestinian who will be willing to negotiate with such disparity between occupier and the occupied."

READ: Intervening in Middle East turmoil: mission impossible?

The next step, Ashrawi said, would be for the PLO Executive Committee to accept the resignations.

Talk about expanding settlements has "rendered the peace talks irrelevant if not a total mockery," she said.

The announcement came a day after Israel canceled controversial plans to construct more than 20,000 homes in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank.

Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel made the decision after Netanyahu asked him to reconsider the long-term building plans.

"This is a meaningless step -- legally and in practice -- and an action that creates an unnecessary confrontation with the international community at a time when we are making an effort to persuade elements in the international community to reach a better deal with Iran," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

"At this time, the attention of the international community must not be diverted from the main effort -- preventing Iran from receiving an agreement that will allow it to continue its military nuclear program."

Lior Amihai of the activist group Peace Now said the Housing Ministry issued 23,786 planning tenders two weeks ago; the tenders are issued to companies to draw plans to be used in possible construction.

Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations at Americans for Peace Now in Washington, said the plans had included construction in areas deep in the West Bank, east of the barrier that separates Israel from the West Bank.

Ashrawi said earlier that Netanyahu appeared to be intent on scuttling any hope for a solution in peace talks recently relaunched by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

There are currently more than 300,000 settlers in the West Bank, according to the Israeli Bureau of Statistics, and about 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

READ: Five ways to tell if Mideast peace talks are serious

CNN's Elise Labott, Jill Dougherty, Anna Maja Rappard, Michael Schwartz and Azadeh Ansari contributed to this report. Ian Lee reported from Ramallah, Kareem Khadder reported from Jerusalem, Tom Watkins wrote in Atlanta

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1049 GMT (1849 HKT)
British PM David Cameron has had the narrowest of political escapes.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
British journalist John Cantlie hadn't been seen in nearly two years. Now, he's the latest hostage to be paraded out by ISIS.
The burial leader. The hospital gatekeeper. The disease detective. All telling powerful, stories from West Africa.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Alibaba's IPO is unlike anything investors have ever seen and could threaten other online retailers. Maggie Lake reports.
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 0358 GMT (1158 HKT)
Indian PM Narendra Modi has said al Qaeda will fail if it seeks to spread its terror network into his country.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Put yourself in the shoes (and sixth-century black robes) of ISIS' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the mysterious boss of the terror group.
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 1444 GMT (2244 HKT)
 Tennis Player Li Na attends the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party as guests enjoy Ciroc Vodka presented by Dubai Duty Free at Kensington Roof Gardens on June 19, 2014 in London,
Asia's first grand slam singles champion Li Na has called time on her 15-year tennis career.
Jenson Button has some of quickest reactions ever shown at an advanced sports lab.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
Creative companies with quirky ideas find new lending models advantageous.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1409 GMT (2209 HKT)
Even death couldn't part two skeletons excavated from a lost chapel in an English county, found with their fingers entwined.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT