RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Middle East peace process suffered a fresh blow after the entire Palestinian negotiating team resigned in protest against continued Israeli settlement building.
Negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh said the resignation move on Wednesday was in response to “increasing settlement building [by Israel]and the absence of any hope of achieving results.”
“Until now, president Abbas has not accepted our resignation,” he added.
Shtayyeh held Israel “completely responsible for the failure of negotiations, because of the continuation and escalation of settlement building.”
Another negotiator, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the resignations.
“Abbas has a number of choices here—he can refuse or accept and form a new delegation, or demand a new negotiations mechanism,” he said, referring to the possibility of indirect talks through a United States team.
Chief negotiator Saeb Erakat is among those who submitted their resignations, the sources said.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted that Abbas remained committed to peace talks “for the nine-month agreed-upon time frame.”
“Both sides remain committed. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment last week. So we will continue to proceed,” she told reporters.
Following mediation by Washington, direct talks resumed in July after a three-year hiatus that was due primarily to Palestinian refusal to talk while settlement expansion continued.
Since then Israel has announced plans to build thousands of new settler homes in the occupied West Bank—territory the Palestinians want for their future state under any peace deal.