A package of goodwill gestures would not be enough to restart the stalled
negotiations with Israel, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Thursday
during a tour of east Jerusalem with foreign diplomats.
He spoke less
than a week before US President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Israel.
Obama plans to speak with Israeli and Palestinian leaders during his three-day
visit about ways to renew the negotiations between them.
for that visit it is assumed that Israel has prepared a series of confidence
building steps it would take to help lay the ground work for renewed
But as Erekat stood under the spring sun in the Beit Safafa
neighborhood, he said, “We do not ask for confidence building measures. We do
not want to hear this term. We want the Israelis to carry out their obligations
from past signed agreements.”
Erekat said Israel had an obligation to
freeze all Jewish building in east Jerusalem and in West Bank settlements,
including to accommodate natural growth.
He also called on Israel to free
Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and to re-open the Orient House located
in east Jerusalem, which housed PLO activities in the 1980s and 1990s. Israel
closed the Orient House in 2001 and has not reopen it.
was organized by the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department, and Erekat said he
would have preferred to have used the Orient House for the event.
he spoke with the diplomats in a large green tent, set up on a sandy lot near
the construction site for Israel’s new Route 4 highway.
As he talked, the
sound of drilling and cranes digging up dirt could be heard in the
Palestinians have objected to the project because it is built
on Beit Safafa land, cuts through the neighborhood and will serve as an access
route to settlements.
Palestinians also say that Israel does not have a
right to build anywhere in east Jerusalem.
Erekat, who also went with the
diplomats to the Givat Hamatos neighborhood, said the goal of the plan to build
2,600 housing units there, half of them for Arabs, as well as other east
Jerusalem construction projects, was to prevent east Jerusalem from becoming the
capitol of a Palestinian state.
“There will never be a Palestinian state
without east Jerusalem being the capitol, that is the Palestinian truth,” he
Israel’s goal in building in east Jerusalem and the West Bank is to
torpedo the two state-solution, Erekat said.
Israel must stop settlement
building, because it is obligated to do so under agreements it has signed, and
not as a gesture or a confidence building measure, he said.
make up its mind [between] settlements or peace,” he said Erekat called on
Israel to recognize that the pre-1967 lines is the basis of the border for the
He asserted the Palestinian right to pursue Israel in
international courts to stop its activities in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The building in Beit Safafa constituted a “war crime,” Erekat
“Those who sorry about the courts, should stop committing
crimes,” he said.
One should not ask the victim not to head to court, one
should tell the perpetrator to stop their actions, he said. “The logic is that
you go to those who committed the crimes and tell them to stop.”
important to pursue Palestinian statehood diplomatically and legally and not
through violence, Erekat said.
“You do not fight extremism with guns. You
do not fight ideas with guns and bullets. You fight bad ideas, evil
ideas, with good ideas.
“This region requires two things, peace between
Palestinians and Israelis and democracy in the Arab world,” Erekat said. “No one
benefits more from a peace process than the Palestinians. No one is harmed more
from the absence of peace.”
Since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was
elected in 2009, he has urged the Palestinians to work toward peace through
negotiations. He has asked for talks to be resumed without
As a gesture to the Palestinians, Netanyahu instituted a
10- month moratorium on building starts in West Bank settlements from November
2009 through September 2010.
The moratorium led to a few meetings with
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in September 2010, but there have
been no direct talks since then.
Israeli governments have long insisted
that united Jerusalem is Israel’s capitol, and that in a final-status agreement
with the Palestinians, east Jerusalem as well as some areas within the West
Bank, known as settlement blocs, will remain part of Israel.