Published today (updated) 01/09/2010 22:12

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RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — “What happened in Hebron proved our point; we need a unified Palestinian position,” Palestinian National Initiative leader Mustafa Barghouthi said following a mass rally in Ramallah on Wednesday.

The protest, planned immediately after PA forces quashed a news conference on 25 August, was coordinated by leftist Palestinian factions, independent parties and several prominent philanthropists and business people involved with recent attempts to restore unity.

The parties demonstrated against the return to peace talks under the conditions set out by Israel. “There were no conditions set out for the success of these talks,” Barghouthi said. “There were no terms of reference and Israel has been given a veto.”

Barghouthi explained that in going forward with direct talks without guarantees, like a promised halt to settlement construction in the West Bank, the Palestinian government was going in without the confidence of the Palestinian people and without their support.

“These talks will fail, and the risks are higher than ever for Palestinians,” Barghouthi said. “The international community has used peace talks as a cover for peace and it is not working.”

Hamas’ armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, said it carried out a shooting attack that killed four Israeli settlers in the West Bank on Tuesday night, saying in a statement that the incident was in response to the PLO’s decision to negotiate with Israel.

Stressing that being against the talks is not the same as being against peace, Barghouthi said the protest had a “peaceful message” and noted that many independents taking part in the event had participated in earlier talks, particularly in Madrid in 1991.

Hundreds in Ramallah took to the streets and demonstrated the start of talks set to be launched in Washington. “President of Palestine, we are not with you,” protesters chanted, and “The PNA leaders put us in danger.”

“What is needed is a unified stance in rejecting Israel’s terms for these negotiations,” Barghouthi added, calling the shooting deaths in Hebron proof of the dangers of heading into talks with a fragmented Palestinian position, and an absence of trust in the leadership in Washington.
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