Nasser Laham
Ma'an News Agency
September 7, 2010 - 12:00am

If there is one man on the Palestinian side capable of assessing the prospects of these new direct talks between Israel and the PLO, it is President Mahmoud Abbas' top aide and spokesman.

Known as "the black box" due to his vantage point as presidential spokesman for the administrations of both Abbas and former president Yasser Arafat, Nabil Abu Rudaineh has shadowed the Ramallah leadership for more than a decade.

A member of Fatah's main body, the Central Committee, Abu Rudaineh has accompanied Abbas on virtually every trip abroad. There is simply no official who knows more about how past agreements were made and how new ones could be signed.

This is why it matters that when Ma'an's correspondent, in Washington for the summit, asked the official for his take on the talks rather than the negotiating team, Abu Rudaineh answered that "There is an opportunity and we are endeavoring not to miss it."

He added: "From my experience, I could say that Washington is just the beginning. I can't give you a negative or positive judgment for another four weeks. The coming four weeks will be decisive and may be a turning point that shows just how ready Israel is and to what extent the US is ready to play an effective role as they promised."

Abu Rudaineh says "there is an opportunity which we endeavor not to miss, and that will be dependent on how serious Israel is and how the US will work hard to reach an agreement as soon as possible. The coming weeks and the meetings to be held will determine the fate of the negotiations and the future of the whole region."

These words have been reiterated to US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Abu Rudaineh says. He also thinks the presence of Egypt's president and Jordan's king in Washington sent a message to Israel and the US that the Palestinians have the backing of Arab countries.

Asked why, then, do Netanyahu's public comments seem hostile to an agreement, the presidential spokesman pointed out, from experience, that there is a difference between what is said while negotiating and what is said to the public.

"We will judge things according to what happens at the negotiating table. Either there will be a Palestinian state on all territories occupied in 1967 -- or there will be no peace in the whole region."


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