Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected on Monday three conditions set by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a peace agreement, calling them “unacceptable.” “There is a difference between negotiations and dictation,” Mr. Erekat told a news conference in Ramallah, commenting on Mr. Netanyahu’s statement that any peace deal should be based on an end to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, recognition of Israel as “the national state of the Jewish People,” and “real and sustainable security arrangements on the ground.” The Israeli leader outlined his three “components” to his cabinet on Sunday, while discussing the announcements made on Friday in Washington and in Brussels that direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians will begin next month.

Mr. Erekat said on Monday he believed that an agreement “on all core issues can be reached within 12 months. It is doable. It is time for decisions and not (for) negotiations.” “Now we hope that Mr. Netanyahu, if he’s given the choice between settlements and peace, would choose peace; if he’s given the choice between reconciliation and an historical agreement and the confrontation or continuation of the occupation, he would chose the reconciliation,” Mr. Erekat said.

But the veteran negotiator said the talks would come to an end if Israel resumed construction in West Bank settlements once a 10—month building freeze ends, on September 26.

Netanyahu declared the partial moratorium, after weeks of US pressure, in November, in a bid to get peace talks going again.

Erekat said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had written to the so—called Quartet of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union, expressing the hope they would force Israel to stop its settlement activities.

Erekat would prefer to see a total halt to settlement construction everywhere in the Palestinian territories, and not just an extension of the moratorium past September 26.

He stressed that submitting new tenders would endanger the continuation of negotiations.

“It is not a Palestinian condition, it is the first Israeli obligation,” he said.

“We never focused on whether or not to go to the negotiations, we have focused on how to go, and any negotiation needs terms of reference, a time frame and obligations from both sides as provided in the Quartet statement (of) August 20th.” The upcoming negotiations will be the first direct peace talks to be held by the sides in nearly two years. The last round of direct negotiations was suspended in late 2008, as Israel entered the election campaign which ultimately brought Netanyahu to power.

Indirect talks between the sides, mediated by US envoy George Mitchell, got under way in the spring.

More In: International | News