PA officials split over Arab League’s proposal

Several PA and Fatah officials express reservations about the idea of lands swaps between Israel and future Palestinian state.

Kerry with Arab League delegation 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Kerry with Arab League delegation 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Arab League’s proposal for land swaps between Israel and a future Palestinian state has drawn contradictory reactions from Palestinian Authority officials in the West Bank.
The proposal was announced by Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani following a meeting of an Arab League delegation with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington earlier this week.
The PA’s Saeb Erekat said in a statement published in English shortly after the announcement that the initiative reflected the Palestinian position in support of minor land swaps with Israel.
PA Foreign Minister Riyad Malki, who was part of the Arab delegation that met with Kerry, was also quoted as saying that the proposal had been made in coordination with the Palestinians.
But several PA and Fatah officials have since expressed reservations about the land swap idea.
Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups have condemned the land swap proposal as treacherous, arguing that the Arab countries did not have a mandate to make territorial concessions to Israel.
In a bid to soften opposition to the idea, PA President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in Ramallah that any “proposed minor adjustments on the 1967 borders would be studied during the negotiations” with Israel.
“We are demanding the implementation of the two-state vision on the basis of the 1967 borders, including east Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian state,” Abbas said. “But if there is a need for minor adjustments on the border, we will study them during the negotiations.”
Asked whether he was prepared to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas said, “We have recognized Israel since 1993 and we have reiterated this recognition more than once. Until two years ago, no one had asked us to recognize the Jewishness of Israel. From our point of view, they can call themselves anything they want.”
Muhamed Shtayyeh, a PA negotiator and top Fatah representative, said on Thursday that it was “premature” to talk about the idea of land swaps with Israel.
Shtayyeh said that any land swaps should come as a result of negotiations and not as a “down payment” made by the Arabs on behalf of the Palestinians.
He told the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency that any future land swaps should be equal in size and value.
“For each centimeter we give, we should get a centimeter in return,” he stressed.
Shtayyeh expressed concern that Israel would interpret the Arab proposal as permission to annex settlement blocs in the West Bank.
“This is a dangerous matter because we consider all settlements to be illegal and should be removed as an obstacle to peace,” he added.
The Fatah representative said that the Arab proposal was not “helpful” because it is being seen as a “down payment” to Israel.
“We want Israel to give,” he said. “The Arabs are not required to give. I don’t believe that the Arab Peace Initiative [of 2002] should be changed. For us, we don’t agree to giving Palestinian lands as a down payment.”
Shtayyeh explained that the proposed land swaps was unacceptable to the Palestinians in the way it was presented to Kerry.
“We are talking about border adjustments wherever required,” he said.