PLO envoy: We're still committed to peace process

Areikat says Palestinians haven't abandoned negotiations; trying to "overcome problems created by Israeli decision not to extend freeze."

311_Sharm talks, Netanyahu and Abbas (photo credit: Moshe Milner / GPO)
311_Sharm talks, Netanyahu and Abbas
(photo credit: Moshe Milner / GPO)
WASHINGTON – The Palestinians have not abandoned the peace process and don’t have any immediate plans to take unilateral steps, the PLO’s top representative in the US told The Jerusalem Post Friday.
“The bulk of the effort now is to try to somehow overcome all of the problems and the difficulties that were created by the Israeli decision not to continue the so-called moratorium,” said Maen Areikat, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s US representative. “Once conditions are suitable again we will get engaged.”
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The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Israel since September 26, when Israel ended a temporary settlement freeze. Certain Palestinian leaders and Arab allies have raised the possibility that the Palestinians would appeal to the UN for endorsement of a unilateral declaration of statement in the wake of the impasse.
But Areikat told the Post that Palestinian officials are focused on working the US in hopes that they will reach an agreement with Israel to resume the freeze.
“We’re not talking about any time frame,” he said of the possibility of bringing a unilateral declaration of statehood forward. “We’re still waiting for the US administration efforts to hopefully succeed in overcoming the difficulties and convince the Israeli side [in hopes] that an agreement would emerge.”
He added that the Palestinian leadership would coordinate any unilateral statehood bid with the Arab countries and other members of the international community.
“It has to be coordinated in a way that will enjoy the support of the international community for it to work,” he explained.
But at earlier comments he made at conference on US-Arab relations, he said that there is a “serious debate” going on within the Palestinian and wider Arab society about pursuing steps beyond negotiations with Israel out of a feeling that 17 years of on-and-off again talks haven’t produced a Palestinian state.
“Today I think we are at the juncture where we really have to contemplate and to explore other venues, of course short of violence, to try to deal with this issue and this debate is ongoing,” he said.
During his comments, he also described Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s call for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in exchange for him extending the freeze as a “political maneuver.”
Areikat summed up the Palestinian attitude as, “Once again the Israelis are negotiating with themselves. He’s trying to appeal to the extreme to the right-wing elements of his government, of his society.”
He said that the PA has already recognized Israel, and that “We feel we have done enough in this regard.”