saeb erekat 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
A comprehensive peace agreement is just months away, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat declared Tuesday.
On the heels of the historic deal in Rafah that would see Palestinians controlling an international border for the first time, he maintained, "We do not need more than six months to see a historic treaty with Israel."
Noting that he was speaking on behalf of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, he stressed, "We made our historic compromise. We recognize your right to exist as a state with secure and recognized borders."
When it came to Israel's part in the process, he had many words of advice, most of which could be boiled down to one phrase: "Wake up!"
"Unilateralism will not bring peace. Unilateralism will not bring an end of conflict. Unilateralism will not bring an end of claims. Wake up!" he said.
On prohibiting Palestinian traffic from certain West Bank roads, he said forcefully, "Wake up! Of all people on earth, Israel should not do that for reasons of security." In his directive on the Palestinian elections coming in January, he added, "Don't poke your noses into our internal affairs. Let the natural growth of Palestinian democracy take its natural course."
On the question of democracy he was uncompromising. "Today we want democracy, and anybody who says the Arabs aren't ready for democracy is a racist," Erekat said at the conference, held at the Netanya Academic College to mark the 10th Anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's death.
He said that the stagnation of the peace process could not be blamed on the assassination of Rabin alone. "It was the choices we made afterwards."
To much applause, he urged the sides to "stop pointing fingers at each other. We made mistakes. You made mistakes. Let's learn from these mistakes because it's the only way to save Israeli and Palestinian lives."
Abdel Salam Majali, the former prime minister of Jordan and another speaker at the conference, also had some suggestions for Israel.
He said it was so important to foster further steps like Tuesday's agreement on Rafah that, "Even if there are incidents, small incidents here and there, they should wave it away. It is always the stronger and the bigger who can forgive and who can give something. The weak cannot afford it. He hasn't got anything." He told The Jerusalem Post, "Maybe tomorrow some incident will happen. It should not, but it should never be an excuse to go back on what happened." Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation. In his assessment, he said, "a condition for peace in the Middle East must be a Quartet agreement."
The economic reformer also called for a "privatization of peace," saying that private organizations and businesses could work towards peace, free of many of the constraints that governments have. They have an interest, he said, as they had a global market.
Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim, who spoke after Peres, was less positive in his assessment of the past and future.
"The Labor party chairman can dream as much as he wants that the Oslo plan still exists," he said. "This is daydreaming. There is no new Middle East."