PLO diplomat blames Israel for peace stall

PLO diplomat blames Israel for peace stall

Speaking at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, Maen Rashid Areikat said that what Israel needs “is a genuine peace with its neighbors, first and foremost the Palestinians.”     
Speaking at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, Maen Rashid Areikat said that what Israel needs “is a genuine peace with its neighbors, first and foremost the Palestinians.”     

According to a leading Palestinian diplomat, Israel is “pushing Israel and Palestine toward a one-state solution” and the resulting state will not be one where all citizens enjoy equal rights.

Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat, the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s chief representative to the United States, spoke on April 26 to a crowd of about 125 at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. He said he remains committed to a two-state solution despite many Palestinians having lost hope in the feasibility of that outcome.

Areikat argued that nearly 30 years ago the Palestinians agreed to accept a future Palestinian state on “22 percent of what used to be historic Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.” Israel, he said, “instead of accepting the Palestinians’ genuine intentions to end the conflict…did the opposite. They are continually consolidating the occupation, imposing facts on the ground: walls, demolitions, additional illegal settlements, withdrawing identity cards from people born in Jerusalem.” 

By these actions, Areikat concluded, Israel is “pushing Israel and Palestine toward a one-state solution.” Mirroring what exists now, he said, the state that would result would not be one in which all citizens would be afforded equal rights. 

Eighteen percent of West Bank land is now formally under total Palestinian control, “which is violated on a daily basis by the Israeli army,” he said.

The settlements remain problematic. “The settlers roam the occupied territory, protected by the Israeli Army [and] recently have escalated their violence and attacks against Palestinians,” Areikat said, pointing to the burning of olive trees and attacks on Palestinian homes, civilians, cars, and anti-occupation activists.

Israel controls 60 percent of the West Bank regarding security and land-related civil matters, said Areikat; in the locations designated as belonging to Area C, Palestinians are not allowed to cultivate their land, start projects, or have freedom of movement of services, goods, and people.

This reality, Areikat said, “is pushing the situation there to a very tense situation that is creating this violence that we are seeing on a daily basis there. When the Palestinians see that the Israeli government continues to plant these settlers and settlements in their midst, in the middle of Palestinian population centers, they realize the Israeli government is not serious about ending its occupation.”

Areikat also warned that Israel is not doing enough to restrain Jewish extremists from provoking Palestinians on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and that “turning this conflict into a religious conflict is going to be costly for all parties.”

He emphasized the Palestinian Authority’s role in pursuing peace, noting its 1993 recognition of Israel after the Oslo Accords, and its 1996 amendment of the PLO charter “to exclude all clauses that contravened the agreement signed with Israel.”

On the other hand, Areikat claimed, Israel has completely renounced all its previous agreements with the Palestinians and, with the support of the United States, is creating “more facts on the ground to preempt and undermine the two-state solution.” 

Noting that the Obama administration is the only U.S. administration since 1967 that “did not once cast a vote [in the UN] that was critical of Israel,” he asked: “How would Israel understand that its actions would have consequences when the United States has continued to shield them at the UN and the Human Rights Council? What incentive does Israel have to stop?” 

Areikat was also unhappy with the $40 billion military aid package now being negotiated, calling it “a blank check for Israel to continue dominating the region.”

“What Israel needs is a genuine peace with its neighbors, first and foremost the Palestinians; it doesn’t need money for weapons and arms,” he said.

Areikat said that the bilateral process sponsored by the United States has failed, and he blamed the Israelis for being unwilling to discuss the core issues: Jerusalem, refugees, borders, and settlements. He supports a multilateral approach whereby the international community would incentivize the parties to move forward. He is, he said, hopeful about the recent French call for a meeting, without Israel and Palestine in attendance, that would talk about “a formula basis for moving forward.” 

During the Q&A session, Amaney Jamal, professor of political science at Princeton University, asked about the lack of democratic elections in the West Bank and fears there that the Palestinian Authority is becoming “an authoritative government” and “increasingly repressive of its own population,” which is causing support for it to plummet.

Areikat — attributing the absence of elections to internal divisions between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas and to the fact that elections cannot be held unless both the West Bank and Gaza are included — responded, “It is not something we’re prolonging deliberately. It is creating frustration and affecting the credibility of our authority and leadership.”

Added to this is the failure of the Palestinian leadership to deliver an end to the occupation, he said, which has caused people “to lose faith and hope, not only in the leadership, but the whole situation. Violence is a manifestation of that hopelessness and despair.

“The only way I can see out of this conflict is getting separated, ending the occupation, ending all historical claims, and being able to turn the page and open new, different relations with all our neighbors,” Areikat said.

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