London, Asharq Al-Awsat- A high-level Palestinian official has described the Palestinian situation as not only difficult, but extremely difficult. Yet he told Asharq Al-Awsat that it is now only a matter of time before the launch of direct negotiations with Israel, despite Israeli intransigence and its rejection of any Palestinian demands.
According to the official, talk now focuses on finding a way out, whilst saving face, especially for the Palestinian side. The Palestinians are still insisting on the need to obtain concrete guarantees, albeit in the form of a statement issued from the Quartet. This statement reaffirms what the Quartet previously stated in Moscow on 19 May, and will be issued after the resumption of negotiations.
The latest attempt [to initiate talks] was made on Wednesday when US Peace Envoy George Mitchell delivered a Palestinian proposal to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling for the resumption of negotiations based on the Quartet’s statement, determining both a reference for the negotiations and a time frame. The proposal also talked about stopping the settlement activity in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem.
The official, who asked to remain anonymous, went on to say: “President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin) is being subjected to unprecedented and unbearable pressures, American and otherwise, to force him to sit at the table for direct negotiations even though the Israeli side is refusing to commit to anything.” According to this official, Abu-Mazin does not have any cards left to play. Even the Arab card no longer exists as the Arabs “have abandoned him.” Not only that, but the Fatah movement is failing on its part to mobilize mass support to stand with President Abu-Mazin and provide him with the impetus to say no. Hence, according to the unnamed source, Abu-Mazin is alone in the field, and everyone is waiting for him to make the wrong move and pounce. The official believes that the Palestinian side must go to these negotiations armed at least with an initiative based on its vision for a future solution, taking into account all the developments from 2000 until now, and not leave the field to be dominated by the Israelis.
The Palestinian official asserts that the negotiations will be launched first, and then followed by a Quartet statement underlining what it had previously declared in Moscow.
This official’s remarks reflect the message of EU Foreign Affairs Representative Catherine Ashton, who believes that Abu-Mazin is on the verge of announcing his agreement to hold direct negotiations.