“Our meetings will be limited to U.S. officials and there will be no contacts or meetings with the Israeli side,” said Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian official who arrived in Washington on Monday.
A PLO official said Monday that Abbas assigned Erekat and the spokesman of the Palestinian presidency Nabil Abu Rdineh to travel to Washington urgently. The aim of the visit is to discuss recent efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, stalled last year over a dispute on Jewish settlement constructions in the West Bank.
While in Washington, Erekat said he will stress that the Palestinians can resume negotiations when Israel stops the settlement activities and recognize the 1967 lines as the borders of the Palestinian and Israeli states.
If Israel doesn’t stop construction and recognizes the 1967 borders as the baseline for negotiations, the Palestinians will go to the UN in September to seek recognition as an independent state. Erekat noted that this is not going to be a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. “We are going to request a membership for a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem.”
Erekat will also defend Egyptian-brokered agreement which allows Abbas’ Fatah party to enter in alliance with the Islamic Hamas movement. The United States classifies Hamas, which seized Gaza by force in 2007, as a terrorist organization. Erekat said he will tell the U.S. officials that the agreement was a Palestinian interest “and that it is a key for making peace.”
The visit of Erekat and Abu Rdineh coincides with the arrival of French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe to Washington. Last week, Juppe unveiled a French plan to resume negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The plan envisions the 1967 lines as the borders between Israel and the future Palestinian state. The French initiative agrees mostly with a recent speech by U.S. President Barack Obama, but goes further to emphasize security for the two states, not only for Israel.
Moreover, the new initiative sets a one-year timeline for Israel and the Palestinians to agree on the status of Jerusalem and resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees. Obama also talked about the two issues without setting a timeline, noting instead that progress made during talks on borders and security can lead to progress on the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees.