Ali Waked
March 5, 2010 - 1:00am,7340,L-3858218,00.html

Despite support from the Arab League for renewing indirect talks with Israel, more and more Palestinian voices are being heard opposing the move. On Thursday evening, Fatah Central Committee spokesman Mohammad Dahlan added his voice to the chorus.

"In light of Israel's acts," he said, "in particular the continued settlement and aggression against holy sites, there is no point to direct or indirect negotiations with the Israeli government."

Speaking to the Palestinian news agency Maan, Dahlan said, "If America's behavior was an attempt at gaining time without results, it fits (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu's strategy, which is to gain time while making a show of negotiating. We are sick of the current situation, of negotiation in the shadow of the occupation, which has been going on since 2000."

Another Palestinian source expressed doubt about Israel's intentions, and referred to the Arab League decision, which enabled the Palestinians to 'get down from the tree' and return to the negotiating table.

"The decision has landed the Palestinians with a problem and a challenge," he said. "Up till now we have followed a policy according to which there is no point negotiating for the sake of negotiating, which indicated a certain change in the Palestinian leadership. However, another negotiating failure will lead to a complete collapse of belief in negotiations."

Hamas has also criticized Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas figure Izzat al-Rishq in Damascus called on Abbas to resign, accusing him of selling the Palestinians "illusions" by moving to resume peace talks with Israel.

"Mahmoud Abbas has to step aside. The Palestinian people want a solid leadership that leads them to their national rights and not a leadership that offers compromise after compromise," said Rishq, who is a member of Hamas's politburo.

Rishq said Palestinians would not be closer to realizing their aspirations for independence because Abbas had ruled out "resistance" as a tool of struggle with Israel.

"If we don't have options, Israel will be tempted to mount more aggression and further refuse to give us any of our rights," said Rishq, who lives in exile in Syria along with other members of the Hamas leadership.

The decision to go back to the talks gives the Israeli enemy the cover to continue settlements. There will not be anything left to negotiate on," he added.

US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is due to arrive in Israel on Saturday evening. He will talk with Israeli and Palestinian officials on Sunday and return to Washington on Monday, and not wait for the arrival of Vice President Joe Biden, expected Monday evening.

Judging by Mitchell's whistle-stop visit, it seems the Obama administration holds little hope that it will be possible to announce renewed talks immediately.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the visit was just to "check the territory" after the Arab League summit in Cairo. If the two sides are willing to advance, he said, the US is ready to assist in the dialogue.

He added that Mitchell was ready to be deeply involved if negotiations began.


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