from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Israel and the Palestinians: Mr. Sha’ath Strikes Again

September 10, 2013

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Today’s New York Times carries an interesting story about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations being fostered by Secretary of State Kerry. Basically, Sha’ath has made a claim that American officials are politely denying:

Signs of strain emerged Monday around the nascent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, as a senior Palestinian official said Secretary of State John Kerry had “guaranteed us in writing” that negotiations would start from the 1967 lines, and American officials suggested he was not telling the truth. Nabil A. Shaath, the Palestinian commissioner for international relations, said the Palestinians had agreed to enter the talks only because of the guarantee. He declined to provide a copy, but when asked if it was signed by Mr. Kerry personally, said: “Absolutely. We wouldn’t have done it without this.”

But American officials denied there was such a document, which would have been a significant gesture to the Palestinians and could have enraged Israel. “We have always said that if you don’t hear news about the talks from senior U.S. officials, you can’t count on it being reliable,” Marie E. Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. “This is a good example.”

This is not the first time that Sha’ath has invented claims about the United States. In 2005, he made several such statements to the BBC:

In the BBC film, a former Palestinian foreign minister, Nabil Shaath, says that Mr Bush told a Palestinian delegation in 2003 that God spoke to him and said: "George, go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan" and also "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq".

This was completely false and invented by Sha’ath, as apparently is the new story about a document signed by Secretary Kerry. In the 2003 case, there was no moment when Sha’ath was alone with Bush; there were always several other people in the conversation, as might have been expected. Sha’ath simply made this all up.

For the U.S. and Israel, his renewed role is a sad sign as to the seriousness of Palestinian negotiators.

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