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Saeb Erekat: 'Israel's choice not peace'


Saeb Erekat: 'Israel's choice not peace'


UN condemnation of Israel’s continuing demolitions of Palestinian homes casts a cold light on peace.

Mohammed Shaikhibrahim, euronews: “After three years of zero progress, Palestinian-Israeli negotiations have begun again, hoping to reach a resolution that may lead the Palestinians to achieve their hope of establishing their own independent state, alongside the state of Israel. To shed more light on the challenges faced by both parties in the negotiations, we welcome Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. About four months of relaunched negotiations have passed; have any tangible results been achieved?”

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat: “I can’t say there have been any real results because of Israeli behaviour away from the negotiating table since the beginning of negotiations again on 29 July. This resulted in the killing of 31 Palestinians in cold blood, in addition to the Israelis introducing tenders for the construction of 5,992 housing units – which is equivalent to three times normal growth in New York City! Moreover, 209 houses and other Palestinian constructions were destroyed, and there were attacks on the al-Aqsa mosque, plus a rising of terrorist actions by the settlers by 41 percent and a tightening of the siege on the Gaza strip. This kind of behaviour means one thing: that the Israeli government is determined to destroy the negotiations.”

euronews: “The latest statements from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu show that he will not stop the settlements even for an hour. It seems that you are negotiating only with Tzipi Livni, and not the Israeli government, is that right?”

Erekat: “The Israeli government bears responsibility for the settlements. The Israeli prime minister has already chosen settlements rather than negotiation. He chose to dictate rather than pursue the peace process. Therefore, the Israeli government bears all the responsibility for this crisis in negotiations.”

euronews: “What are the basic disagreement points between you and the Israeli side?”

Erekat: “I can’t go deeply into the details of negotiations, but what must be constructed under the legitimacy of international law is clear and specific. A Palestinian state has no meaning without announcing East Jerusalem as its capital, and there is no Palestine without the Gaza strip as a part of it. Gaza means the Mediterranean and total incorporation. We are the same people. We cannot end this struggle without finding a solution for the refugee issue, referring to UN resolution 194.”

euronews: “What are the choices supposed to be in case the negotiations fail?”

Erekat: “Today, Palestine could have membership in 63 organisations and protocols with international charters, including the four Geneva conventions, Vienna and the International Criminal Court. Everybody who is afraid of the international courts must stop their crimes. We are building strong relations with the European Union in order to dry swamp settlements, and we are also building relations with Latin America. We are seeking to get the highest possible number of countries to recognise the Palestinian state, especially within the European Union. But Benjamin Netanyahu has a strategy also based on three foundations: he needs a Palestinian authority without power, and he needs an Israeli occupation without cost, and he is trying to move the Gaza Strip away from the Palestinian space. So, to break his strategy we need to rechannel Palestinian efforts, because we must help each other in this issue. Netanyahu must be aware that we are going to ask for membership in all the 63 international organisations including the International Criminal Court.”

euronews: “What are the main reasons which lead you to not admit Israel as a Jewish state?”

Erekat: “Basically, this makes us admit that this land is a Jewish land, and I will not accept that at all. I will not change my religion, history and my culture. Political circumstances and international law say that there are two countries on the borders of 1967, and we accept that, but we will not accept Israel as a Jewish state under any circumstance.”

euronews: “There was talk about land exchange between Israel and the Palestinian authority, versus keeping some settlements in the West Bank; do you accept that?”

Erekat: “There was talk about exchanging land of similar value. Let me say this: our attitude is that we can talk about that subject only in a case where Israel admits to our state according to the border of 1967, because land exchange is possible between countries, and it is a sovereign matter for each country.”

euronews: “Are there any security arrangements under the current American sponsorship, especially in the valleys – which are the borders with Jordan?”

Erekat: “These are Jordanian-Palestinian borders, since Israel has finished its gradual withdrawal. We will not accept any Israeli staying on our eastern and western borders, nor in any port or passageway or territorial waters, or in Palestinian airspace. This is an independent, full sovereign state of Palestine.”

euronews: “Do you accept the presence of international troops?”

Erekat: “We welcome international troops, and we don’t reject their presence. We see it in different regions in the world, under peaceful circumstances in many.”

euronews: “How about a proposal to put international troops in Jerusalem?”

Erekat: “Why? Why Jerusalem? Jerusalem is totally occupied land, like Rafah, Khanyounes and Jericho. If there is a specific issue related to the holy places, then this is a sovereign matter for the state. But Jerusalem is no different from any occupied land since 1967, according to international law. It is dealt with as the Arab-Syrian occupied Golan is dealt with, and as the occupied Lebanese land is dealt with. Discussing privacy here and there, and talking about the holy places, devolves to the sovereign state. Jerusalem, according to the borders of 1967, is six square kilometres – in addition to four square kilometres around the mosque. These are occupied lands; it is not legitimate to occupy land by force.”

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