State Department spokesman Marie Harf told the New York Times that Palestinian official Nabil Sha'ath was lying when he claimed to receive a written guarantee from Secretary of State John Kerry that peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians would start from the 1967 lines.
Sha'ath, the Palestinian commissioner for international relations, said the Palestinians had only agreed to enter the talks because of Kerry's promise:
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, according to Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations.
He relayed an anecdote reported by BBC about another lie from Sha'ath, where he claimed then-President George W. 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.