Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Wednesday dismissed Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s threats earlier in the day to cancel the Oslo Accords, saying the agreement has long been voided by Israel, and only the success of the UN bid to upgrade “Palestine” to nonmember status could revive the peace process.
“What is left of the Oslo Accords?” said Erekat, talking to Army Radio. “The agreement was to be implemented in 1999, 14 years ago. Israel canceled the [Palestinian] Authority’s independent status in A and re-established a civil administration in what it calls ‘Judea and Samaria’. It failed to complete its withdrawal from the West Bank. The fact is that Israel’s strategy is to maintain occupation without paying a price.”
Liberman said Abbas had lost control of the Palestinian street and that his diplomatic efforts to gain UN nonmember status were “political terrorism” aimed at saving his own skin.
Erekat retorted to the foreign minister’s pronouncement saying, “We are going to the UN to ensure that the Oslo agreement and the peace process will continue. We are not out to isolate Israel, but to resume negotiations. Is this a position that justifies the punishment Israel threatens to mete out?”
Erekat’s words echoed the announcement made by Abbas earlier this week, to the effect that he would be ready to resume talks with Israel immediately after the UN General Assembly votes to upgrade “Palestine” to nonmember status at the end of the month.
Abbas predicted that the vote would pass, and made clear that he would not heed US and Israeli pressure to cancel the gambit. “We had agreed to go get the vote on November 29,” Abbas told reporters at the Cairo-based Arab League. “The majority needed for the vote will be on our side.”
Erekat said the pressure on the PA to abandon the UN move, both from Israel and the US, was very serious. “The Americans were opposed to our initiative from day one,” he said. “I do not think that the proposal we submitted to the UN is in contravention of the White House’s or the US State Department positions regarding the peace process.”
Erekat mocked threats to topple Abbas’s government: “Even if Mother Teresa were our president, Thomas Jefferson the chairman of our parliament, and Montesquieu our prime minister, and the three would establish two states within the borders of 1967, Lieberman would still say there is no partner for negotiations and call to kill them.”
Erekat later issued a response to Israel’s killing of the head of Hamas’s armed wing Ahmad Jabari, telling Al Jazeera: “We condemn this Israeli crime and assassination of Ahmad Jabari. We are witnessing a major escalation against our people in Gaza, and it seems to me the Israeli agenda is war, not truce or a ceasefire. We hold the Israeli government responsible.”
“We urge all factions to act in accordance with the needs and interests of the Palestinian people,” Erekat added. ”Do not equate us to Israel. We are under their occupation. We do not have an army, or navy, or air force.”