We "blackmailed" Israel
to release the prisoners
PA's threat to have Israel prosecuted
at the International Criminal Court
is "a weapon... an important card...
We've been waving it around for two years"
Senior PA leader Nabil Shaath:
"Due to the prisoners we haven't stopped negotiations"
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
The Palestinian Authority's only reason for agreeing to and continuing the peace negotiations with Israel is to bring about the release of prisoners, Fatah's spokesman Ahmad Assaf has indicated. Stating that the PA "blackmailed" Israel to release the prisoners, Assaf explained that by virtue of the PA's membership in the UN, the PA is able to threaten Israel with taking it to the International Criminal Court. Assaf maintains that to prevent the PA from doing so, Israel agreed to release 104 prisoners, most of them serving life sentences for murder.
Senior PA leader Nabil Shaath explained already in November and again in December 2013, that the reason the PA has not "stopped negotiations," is because the PA wants to first fulfill its goal of having all the prisoners Israel arrested before the Oslo Accords released.
Israel agreed to release the 104 terrorists from prison because it was the Palestinian Authority's precondition for starting negotiations at all. But Fatah's spokesman calling the release of the prisoners "blackmail," together with Shaath's statement that they are just waiting for the prisoners to be released before they stop the negotiations, indicates that for the PA, the current round of peace talks may have been a charade.
Israel has already released 78 of the prisoners, and has not yet announced if it will release the remaining 26.
Fatah's spokesman further elaborated that the threat to go to the International Court is "a weapon that's in our pocket... an important card... We've been waving it around for two years now":
Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf:
"Our membership in the UN is also a weapon. And that's an important card. It's a weapon that's in our pocket. I didn't use it on day one. I didn't say, as soon as I got membership in the UN, that I want to go to the International Criminal Court - no. We've been waving it around for two years now: We've obtained the release of the prisoners, we blackmailed [Israel], that is, in quotation marks, and we've taken important positions because we have a card that we're waving around."
[Official PA TV, March 19, 2014]
Click to view
Nabil Shaath, Fatah MP and Central Committee member and Commissioner of International Relations stated in November 2013 that "due to the prisoners (of whom only half have been released) [parentheses in source], we haven't stopped negotiations and haven't petitioned the UN." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 30, 2013]
He reiterated this again a second time, the official PA daily reported:
"Shaath emphasized that the leadership did not move forward on joining international organizations [until now] for one reason - which is ensuring the release of the remaining veteran prisoners who were arrested by Israel before the Oslo Accords, and that the leadership is awaiting their release."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 2, 2013]
Click to see more statements by PA and Fatah leaders expressing their view on the peace talks.
The following are longer excerpts of the reports on Nabil Shaath's statements:
"[Political] party and national leaders agreed about the need to build on the UN recognition of Palestine as a non-member state of the organization, which was obtained a year ago, as well as to move forward in this field in order to obtain all national rights.
Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Shaath said that [the day] the State of Palestine obtained recognition as a non-member state of the UN was without doubt a day that led to a great development in the world's view of our people's rights, after this [Palestinian] people decided to declare its statehood in the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. Likewise, he noted that there is much to gain from this recognition, from which we will strive to benefit soon, by joining all international agreements and institutions that require no more than a request to join, and this will be translated shortly into a request to join 35 international conventions, the first of which is the Rome Convention.
Shaath emphasized that the leadership did not move forward on joining international organizations [until now] for one reason - which is ensuring the release of the remaining veteran prisoners who were arrested by Israel before the Oslo Accords, and that the leadership is awaiting their release."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 2, 2013]
Headline: "Calls to petition international UN organizations to prosecute Israel"
"In a statement made to an Arab-Israeli radio station on Wednesday [Nov. 27, 2013] chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that if it were up to him the Palestinians would not wait for the conclusion of the nine months [of negotiations with Israel] to petition international institutions, including the International Criminal Court... Fatah Central Committee member Dr. Nabil Shaath explained in a statement published yesterday [Nov. 29, 2013] by the [Israeli] Maariv newspaper, that 'due to the prisoners (of whom only half have been released) [parentheses in source], we haven't stopped negotiations and haven't petitioned the UN.'"
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 30, 2013]