Saeb Erekat, Airbnb and BDS

Since there exists no Palestinian state, then there is no “occupied Palestinian state,” or “occupied Palestinian territory,” as claimed by Erekat.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (photo credit: REUTERS)
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian chief negotiator, propagandist and PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat, in recent tweets and statements, has been celebrating a decision by the “Airbnb” international home-renting company, to remove listings of vacation apartments in Israel’s West Bank towns, villages and settlements, that the company considers to be “at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”
The Airbnb decision is premised on a January 2016 letter sent by Erekat, in the name of “The State of Palestine,” to the CEO of Airbnb condemning “illegal colonization of Palestine” and the promoting of house rentals “in illegal settlements in the occupied State of Palestine.”
Erekat’s oft-repeated and tedious propaganda in this, as well as other issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, is based on flawed, slanted and highly partisan determinations, exaggerations and lies. All these in fact belie his own deep involvement in negotiating the Oslo Accords with Israel.
Erekat should know better than to distort facts, law and history, thereby manipulating Airbnb and other companies and bodies into involving themselves in issues to which they have no connection and cannot, in any way, contribute positively.
To the contrary, in allowing itself to be manipulated by Erekat, Airbnb is prejudicing a large basis of customer support among Jews, Christians and Moslems all of whom work together in the very areas which Airbnb is now boycotting. In fact, the homes being used in the West Bank that are now being boycotted by Airbnb, are a subject for ongoing negotiation under the Oslo Agreements.
But above all, Airbnb has rendered itself politically motivated and involved in a most partisan manner, singling out Israel only, supporting and sanctioning an openly hostile movement that is intent on causing economic and cultural damage to Israel, and aligning itself with hostile organizations and groups supporting acts of violence and terror against Israel.
Rather than expending such tireless and negative efforts at trying to undermine Israel and its leadership in every possible forum and at every possible opportunity, one might have expected that Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator and PLO secretary general, would better devote his efforts to encouraging and leading his people to peaceful coexistence both among themselves and with Israel.
In fact, based on his own extensive negotiating experience, his awareness of the issues and his intimate connections with all levels of the Israeli leadership, one might have expected that he serve as a bridge between the Palestinians and Israel, to instill mutual trust rather than distrust, and to advocate peaceful coexistence rather than to advocate boycott and delegitimization.
The flawed, misleading and slanted representations and determinations by Erekat to Airbnb need to be corrected:
• Despite the fact that Erekat represents himself in the name of the “State of Palestine,” such a state does not exist and has never existed, and is incompatible with the accepted international law requirements for statehood.
• Whether such a state will ever exist is a negotiating issue between the Palestinians and Israel on the permanent status of the territories, as agreed-upon in the Oslo Accords, negotiated and drafted by Erekat himself.
• The Palestinian leadership bases its claim to statehood on a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution No. 67/19 passed in 2012, which recommended upgrading the status of the Palestinian UN observer delegation to “non-member observer State status in the United Nations.” They have manipulated international bodies into believing that this resolution is the source of authority for the Palestinian state. However, the UN General Assembly has neither the power nor legal authority to establish states nor to determine statehood.
• This resolution was nothing more than a non-binding political recommendation, devoid of any legal authority.
• This is borne by the fact that the same resolution goes on to call for the resumption of negotiations on a comprehensive peace settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides. Since such negotiations are intended to determine the permanent status of the territory and the nature of the Palestinian entity that would govern the territory, then clearly any claim that the resolution established a state has no basis. In fact any claim as to the establishment or existence of a Palestinian state is clearly premature and prejudges the outcome of the very negotiations called for by the resolution.
• Since there exists no Palestinian state, then there is no “occupied Palestinian state,” or “occupied Palestinian territory,” as claimed by Erekat. The solution to the issue of the disputed territories and their future status and borders as well as the status of the Israeli and Palestinian sides, are agreed-upon negotiating issues, negotiated by Erekat himself.
• As such, the malicious allegations by Erekat regarding “illegal colonization” and breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, are totally incompatible with his own, and the Palestinian commitments in the Oslo Accords, as drafted by Erekat himself. Such Oslo commitments include the interim division of powers and authority in the areas between a Palestinian Authority and Israel, and the commitment to negotiate the issue of settlements and the permanent status of the territories.
• The reliance by Erekat on provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court falsely assumes that the court has jurisdiction over the disputed territories. This is deliberately misleading. Since there is no Palestinian state, and thus no Palestinian territory, the court cannot exercise jurisdiction over an area the status of which is pending negotiation.
• In fact, the Palestinian attempt to become party to the Rome Statute and to empower the international Criminal Court with jurisdiction is legally flawed inasmuch as only sovereign states may become party to the Statute and the Court. The Palestinian standing vis-à-vis the Court, as well as the status of the many complaints that they have issued against Israeli leaders, are thus legally flawed and have yet to be examined juridically.
The fact that Airbnb has allowed itself to be manipulated and pressured into singling out Israel and joining a boycott of Israel’s towns and villages in the West Bank is regrettable.
It is even more regrettable inasmuch as it is based on the flawed, misleading and malicious allegations of Erekat.
It is to be hoped that Airbnb will see through this unfortunate manipulation.
Alan Baker served as the legal adviser to Israel’s foreign ministry and as ambassador to Canada. He was involved in the negotiation and drafting of the peace treaties and other agreements with Israel’s neighbors, including the Palestinians. Today he directs the international law program at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.