Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The PLO’s Central Council is due to meet Wednesday to redefine its relationship and its economic and security cooperation with Israel, the Palestinian chief negotiator said Sunday.
Saeb Erekat, in a meeting with members of the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem, used almost identical language to what was said a month earlier by Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi.
Erekat said Israel has stopped its obligations and has abrogated all the agreements that it has with the Palestinian Authority.
He said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is undermining Palestinian moderates because he doesn’t want a Palestinian state in which people can live in dignity and peace.
Erekat said Israel is committing crimes against the Palestinian people. He suggested that a legal expert from an Israeli university write a paper on the subject and give it to Netanyahu.
“We will hold the Israeli prime minister accountable for any crimes committed against Palestinians,” Erekat said. “It will not be cost-free legally.”
Referring to Netanyahu’s pre-election statement that if elected there would be no Palestinian state on his watch, Erekat employed the statement as a reason for the Palestinians not returning to the negotiating table.
“I’ve been told that this will be the most extreme government in Israel,” he said, adding, “If the prime minister doesn’t want to accept a Palestinian state, what will I talk to him about?” Several times Erekat reiterated the Palestinian commitment to a two-state solution and shared his conviction that at the end of the day there will be a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem – including the Old City - as its capital.
He said he was certain Palestinian aspirations toward independence would be realized despite the efforts of Netanyahu, Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who he said “want to destroy the prospects of a Palestinian state.”
When asked whether a line would be drawn between the two sections of the city, Erekat said his personal preference was that it should remain an open city of peace in which “no one can tell the difference between a Jewish, Christian and Muslim stone.”
Erekat also denied that anyone in the PA was persecuted for being Christian and said that he was willing to dispute anyone, anywhere who claimed that there was Palestinian persecution of Christians simply because they are Christians.
Erekat lashed out against Islamic State, however, saying that what Islamic State does is alien to Muslim belief and that Islam does not call for the killing of innocent people.
“We must stand tall against these evil forces,” he said. Speaking against bigotry in general, including that of Israeli extremists against Arabs, Erekat said: “It’s not good for any society to have bigots among them.”
Erekat also spoke of reconciliation between the PLO and Hamas and said that this must be done through ballots not through bullets with the West Bank and Gaza becoming a single territorial unit with one authority and one gun.
“We cannot have multiple authorities,” he said.