by Joseph Klein
Saëb Erakat, Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Chief Palestinian Negotiator, addressed the 352nd meeting of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People at UN headquarters in New York on May 20th. His message was wrapped in the standard Palestinian victimhood narrative. It contained superficially nice sounding words about the Palestinians’ interest in peace but only on their terms.
Erakat used his speech to attack Israel’s alleged “apartheid” policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to trumpet the Palestinians’ commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Israel based on “two states on the 1967 line.” At the same time, he praised Secretary of State John Kerry for trying to bring the parties together and move the peace negotiation process forward. “I know his heart is there,” Erakat said.
Erakat denied that the Palestinians were imposing any conditions on resuming negotiations with Israel. Then, in the next breath, he insisted that Israel must first meet its “obligations” to freeze all settlement activities and free Palestinian prisoners. It must also accept what he repeatedly called in shorthand “two states – 1967.” By referring to “Israeli obligations” instead of “conditions,” Erakat tried to sugarcoat the Palestinians’ continued obstruction of peace negotiations. Erakat, the Chief Palestinian Negotiator, wants certain major issues in dispute with Israel to be decided first in the Palestinians’ favor before they will agree to even sit down with Israeli negotiators.
If Israel does not accept “two states – 1967,” Erakat warned, there will be “consequences.” He mocked the current relevance of Israel’s security concern that the 1967 line was indefensible. “Missiles today cannot be stopped by walls,” he said.
Israelis have every reason to be suspicious of Erakat’s “two states-1967″ formula for durable peace, even aside from their legitimate security concerns. The Palestinians have not given up on their so-called “right of return” demand, which would send potentially millions of Palestinian refugees back to live within the land of pre-June 1967 Israel and effectively destroy its Jewish identity.
Indeed, Erakat noted that the Palestinians just marked the anniversary of Israel’s independence in 1948 which they call “nakba” or the Great Catastrophe. “In May 1948, Palestine as a nation was interrupted,” he said. This sounds like the Chief Palestinian Negotiator still considers Israel a temporary interloper on what the Palestinians claim was their land alone before May 1948.
Moreover, there is nobody on the Palestinian side who can deliver a secure and lasting peace, despite Erakat’s claims to the contrary in his UN speech. Israel withdrew from Gaza unilaterally in 2005, uprooting thousands of settlers in the process. All that Israel has gotten in return are thousands of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel and aimed at civilian population centers by Hamas and its other jihadist allies. For his part, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas objected to attaching the label “terrorists” to Hamas. During a March 15, 2013 interview on Russian TV, as transcribed by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Abbas declared: “As far as I am concerned, there is no difference between our policies and those of Hamas.”
Back in 2008, Abbas demonstrated his lack of interest in a negotiated peace fair to both sides when he rejected a peace proposal from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that would have given the Palestinians approximately 94% of the West Bank. The Palestinians rejected Israel’s offer because they did not get 100% of what they wanted, including the full “right of return” and every stone of East Jerusalem under Palestinian rule.
Here is what Saëb Erakat himself said about the rejected offer during a television appearance in March 2009, as transcribed by MEMRI:
“Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Abbas] could have accepted a proposal that talked about Jerusalem and almost 100% of the West Bank, but it is not our goal to score points against one another here. Our strategic goal, when we strive for peace, is not to do so at any price. We strive for peace on the basis of an Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 borders, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip geographically connected… There will be no peace whatsoever unless East Jerusalem – with every single stone in it – becomes the capital of Palestine…Saëb Erakat’s speech to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and his “two states-1967″ formula continued the Palestinians’ intransigent and deceptive approach to negotiations with Israel. The Palestinians remain the victims of their own delusions.
Olmert, who talked today about his proposal to Abu Mazen, offered the 1967 borders, but said: ‘We will take 6.5% of the West Bank, and give in return 5.8% from the 1948 lands, and the 0.7% will constitute the safe passage, and East Jerusalem will be the capital, but there is a problem with the Haram and with what they called the Holy Basin.’ Abu Mazen too answered with defiance, saying: ‘I am not in a marketplace or a bazaar. I came to demarcate the borders of Palestine – the June 4, 1967 borders – without detracting a single inch, and without detracting a single stone from Jerusalem, or from the holy Christian and Muslim places. This is why the Palestinian negotiators did not sign.”
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