Shooting and stabbing attacks against Israelis are driven by despair over the “occupation,” Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki told European parliamentarians in Brussels as he condemned the twin terrorist attacks that rocked the Belgian capital.
Maliki began his address to the EU Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday by condemning the violence that took place a few hours earlier.
“Terrorism does not recognize border ethnicity and countries. We should rally to work against international terrorism, wherever it strikes,” Maliki said.
While offering his condolences to the Belgian people and the families of the victims, the PA foreign minister struck a different tune about the Palestinian terrorism that has rocked Israel since mid-September. The almost continual daily attacks have led to 34 fatalities and left hundreds of wounded. Among the victims was visiting US graduate student Taylor Force, who was stabbed to death on the Tel Aviv-Jaffa boardwalk on March 8.
Palestinian leaders have yet to condemn any of these attacks. Maliki did not use the word “terrorist” when he spoke of the stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks targeting Israelis.
He described the Palestinian assailants as “youngsters driven by despair and hopelessness.”
“Some 80 percent of them have been young people between the ages of 12 and 21,” Maliki said. Many of the incidents occurred over the pre-1967 lines in territory that the Israelis control but which the Palestinians believe belongs to them, he explained. Quite a number of the incidents occurred at military checkpoints and have involved attacks against Israeli soldiers and settlers, he added.
“Why is the Israeli soldier manning an Israeli military checkpoint in the heart of the Palestinian territories?” he asked.
“What business [does he have] there? Why are Israeli civilians, called settlers, walking and moving inside the heart of the West Bank?” “These are very important questions,” said Maliki.
Israeli security forces have killed more than 200 Palestinians since mid-September. Two-thirds of those were killed while attacking Israelis, and the remainder shot during clashes with the IDF.
Maliki told the EU parliamentarians that those Palestinians who attack Israelis know the likelihood is high that they will be killed in the process.
That youngster “knows that he is committing suicide, that he is killing himself. He knows that the options he will survive area almost zero,” Maliki said.
Yet he does so out of “despair and hopelessness, and lack of initiatives to end the occupation and the suffering,” Maliki said.
“Why does a 12-year-old kid that does not know anything about life reach a conclusion so early that life is worth nothing under such circumstances?” Maliki asked.
He added that he does not support this behavior, but he understands it.
Although he spoke to a small but supportive audience, one of the parliamentarians told Maliki that he deplored the fact that he had come to “make an apology for the intifada of the knives.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke of Palestinian violence when he addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy convention in Washington via a satellite hook-up from Jerusalem.
That violence is fueled by Palestinian incitement against Israel, Netanyahu said, as he held PA President Mahmoud Abbas responsible for the hatred of Israelis and Jews.
Abbas “has helped inculcate a new generation of young Palestinians with murderous hatred for Israel. And my friends, this incitement has deadly consequences. Palestinian children are taught to stab Jews. They are taught that the goal of the Palestinian people is not to establish a state on the West Bank, but in all of Israel – in Acre, Haifa, Nazareth, Jaffa,” Netanyahu said.
But in Brussels, Maliki said it was clear to him that the “occupation” is responsible for the Palestinian attacks.
“I am not blaming one person. I am blaming the occupation as a system,” he said, as he described Israeli roadblocks, checkpoints and land appropriation.
Palestinians are under constant attack from the IDF and settlers, and do not feel safe, he said. He recalled the July terrorist attack in which three members of the Dawabsha family were killed when Jewish extremists set fire to their home.
“We have reached a situation where international protection is a must,” he said.
“The atrocities and the hardships are so huge that they cannot be comprehended without experiencing them yourself,” he said.
He urged the parliamentarians to boycott Israeli settlements and the products and people associated with them as a way to force Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 armistice lines.
“If the settlements are illegal, then settlers are illegal and their products are illegal. That is obvious,” Maliki said. He added the issue of boycott did not extend to Israel within the Green Line.
He urged the EU to take a larger role in the peacemaking process, which has been frozen since the US-led efforts to broker an agreement for a two-state solution fell apart in April 2014.
“We have realized from the beginning the genuine European desire to be involved. We are the backyard of Europe,” Maliki said.
“Help us to preserve and protect the two-state solution. It is your battle,” said Maliki as he asked them to support the French initiative to convene an international conference that would set the parameters for negotiations with Israel.
This would include a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, and the creation of a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, he said.
“Internationalized peace conferences have proven to be effective, like the one that ended with the Iran deal,” Maliki said.
Such a step would prove that the international community was serious about the two-state solution, he said.
The Palestinians, he said, have lobbied for the plan with the international community, and have spoken with various countries including Japan, South Korea and Indonesia.
Israel, he said, has not yet responded to the proposal, and the US is studying the issue.
Maliki added that he does not believe Netanyahu is serious about the two-state solution.
In his address to AIPAC on Tuesday, Netanyahu said that the best way to have two states for two peoples was for the Palestinians to hold direct negotiations with Israel, something they have refused to do.
“The best formula for achieving peace remains two states for two peoples, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state finally recognizes the Jewish state,” Netanyahu said.
“Now, I know there’s some skepticism about my views on this. So let me state unequivocally, and here’s the acid test: I am ready to begin such negotiations immediately, without preconditions, anytime, anywhere.
That’s a fact. But President Abbas is not ready to do so. That’s also a fact.
There is political will here in Jerusalem.
There’s no political will there in Ramallah,” he said.