A senior member of the executive committee of the PLO has called a statement made by Israel's first Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz an "unfounded red herring". Saeb Erekat made his remarks after Mofaz had claimed that the Israelis and Palestinians are about to reach an understanding on the issues of borders and security arrangements.
Erekat told official Palestinian radio, "This unfounded claim is a red herring to show the world that there is a political process when that has no basis in fact."
He challenged the Israeli government to reveal any background negotiation channels. "The Palestinian leadership has not negotiated with Israel since 2010," he said. In fact, added Erekat, the Palestinians have not even received any new offer from Arab countries to conduct exploratory talks like those that took place in the Jordanian capital in January.
"If the Israeli government wants negotiations, it must halt settlement activity, including in Jerusalem, accept the principle of the two-state solution on the borders occupied in 1967, and release all the detainees," stressed the veteran PLO official. He pointed out that these are not Palestinian conditions, as the Israeli government claims, but rather obligations placed on Israel under the agreed "Road Map", which entails a halt to settlement construction and acceptance of the principle of the two-state solution.
Mofaz won the leadership contest of the Kadima Party and took his party into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government. The last direct peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis had ground to a halt by the beginning of October, 2010 as Israel continued with its settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.