Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reportedly accused Israel on Sunday of propping up the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers, and warned that if peace negotiations fail the Palestinians will become “a state under [Israeli] occupation.”
Speaking before the board of the Yasser Arafat foundation in Cairo, in the presence of Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi and senior Egyptian politician Amr Mousa, Erekat warned that the Palestinian Authority could cease to exist in the absence of a peace deal with Israel.
“We do not want to dismantle the Palestinian Authority, which came into existence as a result of the Palestinian struggle, but continuing the status quo will be impossible,” Erekat told the gathering, according to the Egyptian daily Al-Youm A-Sabi’. He said that if the PA is abolished, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the legislative body of the PLO, will replace the Palestinian Legislative Council, which has not convened since Hamas’s bloody takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
Erekat proceeded to accuse Israel of benefiting from the Palestinian political divide since June 2007, reportedly alleging that Israel supported the rule of Islamic movement Hamas in Gaza.
“While the Muslim Brotherhood has fallen in Egypt, Hamas continues in Gaza supported by Israel,” Erekat was quoted as saying.
A source in Erekat’s office later told The Times of Israel that the he had been misquoted by the Egyptian paper and hadn’t in fact accused Israel of propping up the Hamas government. Rather, the source said, he had only alleged that Jerusalem was the party that most benefited from Hamas’s control over the Strip.
It was not the first time the senior Palestinian negotiator spoke of a convergence of interests between Hamas and Israel. On February 18, Erekat told Palestinian radio that by refusing to accept an international force to replace Israel in the West Bank, Hamas was effectively “demanding the Israeli occupation to remain, as Netanyahu and the extreme Israeli right would like.”
Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said only that “he would not comment on every piece of nonsense uttered by Mr. Erekat.”
Meanwhile, Hamas accused an Egyptian court on Sunday of “allying with the [Israeli] occupation” by discussing an appeal to classify it as a terror organization last week.
On December 25, the military-backed Egyptian government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terror group, having toppled its government six months earlier. Hamas said it was the first time in history that an Arab court would discuss such a claim, calling it “a violation of all national norms.”
“Classifying Hamas as a terror organization is a Zionist classification,” Hamas charged in a press release posted on its website Sunday. “The tendency of some to adopt such a classification expresses an alliance with the occupation and support of it … what is expected of our nation is to support the Palestinian resistance, not try it.”
In addition to Israel, the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan all include Hamas in their lists of terror organizations.
This article was edited after its publication to include a clarification from Saeb Erekat’s office regarding the nature of his remarks.