Erekat warns of PA collapse if no peace progress

“It is impossible to sustain the Palestinian authority under the status quo. It cannot be maintained,” chief PA negotiator says.

Erekat talking with hands in air 311 (photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Erekat talking with hands in air 311
(photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat warned on Monday night that the Palestinian Authority would collapse, unless real progress is made in the peace process in the near future.
“It is impossible to sustain the Palestinian Authority under the status quo. It cannot be maintained,” he told journalists at a pre-Christmas gathering in Bethlehem.
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But although the room was decked in the traditional holiday colors, there was little Christmas cheer in the room.
He clarified that his words were not meant as a threat, but rather as a description of what would occur in the absence of peace.
Erekat lashed out at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and accused him of taking steps to destroy the PA.
The Fatah-led government, he said, was created to bring the Palestinians from “occupation to independence.” But since 2009, Erekat said, “the prime minister of Israel has done his best to change the function of this authority.”
The Palestinians need much more than the economic gains and security arrangements that Netanyahu continually touts, the chief negotiator said.
“Yes, we recognize Israel. Yes, we want a two-state solution with minor swaps,” he said.
“But that does not mean that I should become a traitor, an agent of Netanyahu. Forget that. I am a Palestinian patriot,” he said.
“We have come a long way on each issue, and today, as we end 2011, my heart is aching that we do not have a partner for peace,” Erekat said.
The coming year, he said, must be a year of change.
“Those who speak of real democracy without peace are very short-sighted and those who speak of real peace without democracy are also shortsighted,” he said.
Since Netanyahu entered office in March 2009, he has urged the Palestinians to sit down and negotiate a finalstatus agreement without any pre-conditions. But except for a few brief meetings in September of 2010, the Palestinians have refused to talk with Israel until it halts settlement construction and accepts the pre-1967 line as the border of a two-state solution.
On Sunday night, Erekat said that someone has to help Netanyahu learn how to say the numbers 1-9-6-7.
He even stated them in Hebrew, to underscore the point that he didn’t care what language the numbers were uttered in.
Erekat urged Western leaders to pressure Netanyahu to accept the pre-1967 line as the basis of a two-state solution and to negotiate an agreement based on such an understanding of the two-state solution.
Erekat called on Western leaders to stand up to Israel and to pressure it to work toward a solution under this context.
He noted that the Quartet had given Israel and the PA three months to submit their proposals on a peace agreement, and the deadline for this was on January 26.
This will be an important date, Erekat added, suggesting that the Palestinians will have made their proposal by then, but that Israel will not have done so.
Erekat said that the Palestinians have asked the Quartet if there is a “sign of life” that would make it worthwhile for the resumption of direct negotiations.
“Tell us if there is a sign of life. To us, failure is not an option. I cannot go again and sit with my Israeli colleagues and fail. It is too dangerous,” said Erekat.
“Realizing a two-state solution is a vital Israeli interest,” he said.
“I had hoped that Israel would be the first country to vote for us [to support a Palestinian state], so we could join forces to protect the human inheritance of the three faiths.”