Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat defended Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s use of the term “genocide” in reference to Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip this summer, saying Abbas was “naming things by their name.”
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Erekat dismissed Israeli and American condemnations of Abbas’s terminology in his speech Friday to the United Nations General Assembly and said that “ignoring facts doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
In his address, Abbas said 2014 was meant to be a year of international solidarity with the Palestinians, but blamed Israel for choosing to make it “a year of a new war of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people,” referring to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.
Hamas officials say 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the 50-day war with Israel, the majority of them civilians; Israel contends about half were combatants. Israel lost 66 soldiers in battles with Hamas, and six civilians as thousands of rockets rained down on its cities and towns.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Friday said Abbas’s speech “included offensive characterizations” that the US rejects, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “inciting,” “slanders and lies.”
But Erekat said that “naming things by their name is not extreme” and that it was “unacceptable” that the use of the term “genocide” enraged Washington and Jerusalem.
“In my opinion [the criticism] is inappropriate, not responsible and unacceptable,” he said.
If Abbas’s use of the term “genocide” bothered Israelis so much, the Palestinian negotiator asked, “what do you think the actual reality is [for] the thousands of orphans, 91 families that no longer exist anymore in Gaza — that were terminated?
“What happened in Gaza was totally unjust,” continued Erekat, who headed the team that engaged in nearly nine months of talks with Israel before negotiations went belly-up amid bitter recriminations in April.
The veteran Palestinian politician went on to turn on its head Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s accusation that Abbas is not a partner for peace, charging that Netanyahu’s government was not a viable negotiations partner.
“You have a government in Israel that doesn’t seek the two-state solution. They want one state, two systems, and that’s what they’re doing on the ground,” Erekat added. “An abbreviation [sic] for it is apartheid.”
Underlining the intensification of a Palestinian legal campaign against Israel, Erekat also said that the Palestinians were “planning now to join 522 international agreements, conventions, protocols,” including those “paving the way to the International Criminal Court.”