Erekat Delivers PA Letter to Netanyahu

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat delivered a much-touted letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday evening at the prime minister's Jerusalem residence.

P.A. general intelligence head Majad Faraj accompanied Erekat, while Netanyahu's chief negotiator, Yitzhak Molcho, was also present.

At the end of the meeting, the following statement was released:

"Israel and the Palestinian Authority are committed to achieving peace. This evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with representatives from the Palestinian side who gave him a letter from [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas.

"Within two weeks, a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be give to President Abbas. Both sides hope that this exchange of letters will help find a way to advance peace."

According to reports, the letter states that the P.A. is ready to enter direct negotiations if Israel halts all construction in Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem, agrees to the pre-1967 armistice as the future borders of a Palestinian state, and releases all Palestinian prisoners convicted before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.

Jerusalem Post political correspondend Herb Keinon described Tuesday's meeting in an analysis entitled, "Diplomatic theater, not diplomacy."

Diplomatic theater, Keinon explained, "is when one side presents a letter laying out preconditions that the other side rejected a thousand times in the past, knowing full well that they will reject them again this time as well."

"That is not diplomacy, but rather diplomacy as show," he said.

Keinon said the reason behind the gesture is simply "theatrical effect."

"Blame him [Netanyahu], not us is the theme the Palestinians hope the world will take away from Tuesday's letter-giving exercise. The letter is a prop in this show," Keinon said.

As the statement indicated, Netanyahu will respond with a letter in two weeks to be delivered by his chief negotiator, Yitzchak Molcho, to P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

The letter will state again that a negotiated agreement with the P.A. must meet Israel's security needs and recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Abbas said the P.A. will return to the United Nations in a unilateral bid for statehood if Israel rejects the letter.

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