PLO's Erekat blames Israel PM for unrest ahead of US talks

AFP , Monday 23 Nov 2015

Saeb Erekat
Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), speaks during an interview with AFP at his office in Ramallah on November 23, 2015.( AFP Photo )

Palestine Liberation Organisation senior official Saeb Erekat on Monday blamed Israel's prime minister for nearly two months of deadly unrest, on the eve of key talks with the top US diplomat.

Erekat, who has served as the Palestinians' chief negotiator, also stressed in an interview with AFP that he did not condone killings, but declined to outright condemn a wave of Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis.

The PLO secretary-general's comments came ahead of talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who will meet with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu separately on Tuesday.

Erekat said if nothing concrete comes out of the meetings with Kerry, the Palestinians could move forward on changing longstanding links with Israel, including security coordination.

Kerry's visit comes amid nearly two months of violence, including Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks.

The attackers appear to be acting on their own, defying Abbas's calls for peaceful resistance against Israel's occupation.

The current wave of protests by Palestinians and repression by Israeli occupation forces started in late July when toddler Ali Dawabsha was burned to death and three other Palestinians were severely injured after their house in the occupied West Bank was set on fire by Israeli settlers.

Palestinian protests were also triggered by an increase in Jewish visitors to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is considered the third holiest site in Islam. Palestinians fear that Israel is preparing to allow Jewish prayers in the mosque, which are not currently allowed.

Settlement-building, racial discrimination, confiscation of identity cards, long queues at checkpoints, as well as daily clashes and the desecration of Al-Aqsa mosque, have been Palestinians' daily routine.

The anger of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem has increased in the last three years after the Israeli authorities allowed increasing numbers of Jewish settlers to storm the Al-Aqsa mosque.

"I condemn the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu," said the 60-year-old Erekat, who will participate in Tuesday's talks.

"Yes, and I hold him responsible. I hold him responsible for this deterioration."

He accused Netanyahu of cutting off the hopes of young Palestinians by refusing to recognize a Palestinian state according to 1967 borders and allowing Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank to continue, among other issues.

"We really hope, and I really hope against hope, that Mr. Kerry will succeed in getting from Netanyahu a commitment to carry out his obligations," Erekat said.

He said later that Abbas "promised Kerry that we will not move until he comes, so it depends on what he brings tomorrow.

"But then after that, if Netanyahu continues his games of settlements, dictations, destroying the two-state solution, there will be major, major decisions."

Peace efforts have been at a standstill for more than a year, and Netanyahu has sent mixed signals about his commitment to a two-state solution.

At the same time, the Israeli prime minister has accused Palestinian leaders of helping incite the current wave of violence.

On Monday, an Israeli soldier and three Palestinian attackers were killed in another day of bloodshed.

The violence since October 1 has left 92 Palestinians killed, including one Arab Israeli, as well as 17 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean.

Many of the Palestinians killed have been alleged attackers, and a large number of them have been young people. Others have been shot dead during clashes with Israeli security forces.

"I condemn those who destroy hope," Erekat said when asked if he saw a need to condemn the Palestinian attacks.

"I condemn those who chose settlements and dictation rather than peace and negotiations. And I told you I don't condone the killing of civilians, given it is Israelis or Palestinians.

"I'm a man of peace. I want to make peace. I recognize Israel's right to exist."

He said that an international investigation was needed to probe allegations of extrajudicial killings and excessive force by Israelis, and warned that "things are deteriorating. Things are slipping outside our fingers like sand."

Erekat said that "when you simply speak about people dying, those people dying are my children and my grandchildren. They are the same people we are supposed to give better lives to.

"That's what we promised. But OK, I tell him now: You succeeded Mr Netanyahu. You destroyed the two-state solution. You destroyed (the) Palestinian moderate camp."

US officials said they were not expecting to strike any new agreement on a return to peace talks during Kerry's visit, and would simply try to walk the parties back from the immediate violence.

Abbas in his speech to the United Nations in September said he was no longer bound by accords with Israel, saying "we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements."

There have been threats to pull out off the 1990s Oslo accords, which formed the basis of the peace process but have not led to an independent Palestinian state.

Erekat said a lack of immediate progress could result in concrete actions taken, including involving security coordination with Israel.

"We want people to start asking Netanyahu to put his money where his mouth is," Erekat said. "We want deeds, not words."

*The story was edited by Ahram Online.

Short link: