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Palestinian President Joins Boycott of Israeli Settlements

New Middle East peace talks do not mean a new era of goodwill. Economic sanctions are the source of the latest row between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has joined an economic boycott of Jewish settlements. Mr. Abbas opened his door to volunteers distributing leaflets detailing products from the settlements banned by the Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank. These products include wine, soft drinks, furniture and plumbing equipment.

Palestinian activist Haitham Kayali, said, "Palestinian grassroots, volunteers, are leading this campaign, going around from house to house, providing people with the information needed that would help them get rid of settlement products; and they encourage them, of course, to replace it with Palestinian products instead."

President Abbas put a sticker on his door which said that his conscience is clear and that there are no products from the settlements in his house.

The boycott coincides with the beginning of indirect peace talks after a 17-month break. The Palestinians and international community consider the settlements an obstacle to peace because they are built on land the Palestinians seek for a future state. Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem had, until now, scuttled efforts by the United States to resume negotiations.

The timing of the boycott has infuriated Israel. Government spokesman Yigal Palmor said, "At this precise moment when peace talks, however fragile and timid, are being re-launched, this is probably the most destructive message that can be conveyed from the Palestinians. This is highly regrettable."

The boycott could cost Israel $500 million a year. The Council of Jewish Settlements describes it as "economic terrorism."