Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, accused Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, of lies and incitement, after Erekat said Israel’s policies were worse than those of apartheid-era South Africa.
“Saeb Erekat never misses an opportunity to lash out at Israel on the international stage,” Prosor said Monday. “One would expect that a man in charge of peace negotiations would instill peace, not incitement.”
“Today in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem… I can sum up the situation with one word — apartheid. Worse than that which existed in South Africa,” Erekat told a meeting of the UN Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People Monday. “Today Israel justifies its apartheid by the term security.”
Erekat also asserted that the Palestinians had frozen efforts to establish statehood in the United Nations, and were instead “exerting every possible effort” to ensure that a new US-led effort to kick-start stalled peace talks would see success.
Prosor, however, charged in his response that “while Erekat purports to back [US Secretary of Stae John] Kerry’s Mideast efforts, he simultaneously paints a false picture of the situation in the West Bank in a manner that damages any real shot at peace.”
Employing the disputed land as a metaphor, the Israeli ambassador said the Palestinians would be to blame if Kerry’s efforts proved a failure.
“The more the Palestinian people continue to fertilize the land with hatred of Israel, the smaller the chance that the seeds of peace in the Middle East will sprout and take root,” he said.
During his speech, Erekat said that “No one benefits more (from) the success of secretary Kerry than Palestinians and no one loses more (from) his failure than Palestinians.”
But he said Israel must stop settlement building, which is an obligation under a 1995 interim agreement and the 2003 roadmap to a Palestinian state — not a condition for resuming peace negotiations.
“Israel must make the choice — settlements or peace,” Erekat said.
The issue of Jewish settlements has been at the heart of the current 4 1/2-year impasse in peace talks.
Peace talks broke down in late 2008 and have remained frozen since then. The Palestinians have refused to resume talks while Israel continues to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas where they hope to establish an independent state. Israel captured both areas in the 1967 Six Day War.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says talks should resume without any preconditions — and a halt to settlement building is a precondition.
If Kerry succeeds, Erekat said, the Palestinians will achieve their independence and freedom peacefully, but if he fails “we are going deeper into the evil apartheid that exists in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.