A senior Palestinian official on Tuesday said silence in US President Donald Trump’s administration over settlement growth and its failure to explicitly support the two-state solution encouraged “apartheid” Israeli policies.
The criticism by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat came in a statement after the Palestinians had previously been careful not to antagonize the new US leader since his inauguration in January.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since 2014.
“The fact the US administration did not declare the final goal of the peace process is to achieve two states on the basis of the 1967 borders, and its silence regarding the intensification of Israeli colonial settlement activities, are interpreted by the Israeli government as an opportunity to destroy the two-state solution and replace it with one state with two systems,” Erekat said.
“That is what the Israeli government is doing on the ground through its policies,” he said, adding that such a system was tantamount to “apartheid.”
Trump’s administration, which includes his son-in-law Jared Kushner, has sought to build trust for a new round of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Erekat, who is also the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the American administration’s perceived silence was an “obstacle” to talks.
Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are among the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In December, the United Nations Security Council declared all settlements to be illegal after outgoing president Barack Obama decided not to veto a resolution.
Since Trump came to power, however, Washington has remained largely quiet as Israel has announced thousands of new homes in settlements.
US negotiators have also not publicly backed an independent Palestinian state in statements after meetings with the two sides.
Erekat has a serious lung disease and is currently on the waiting list for a transplant in Israel and the US, according to a report Tuesday on the Ynet news site.
Erekat, 62, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis over a year ago and had been on medications that were effectively treating the disease. However, the drugs stopped working several months ago, and his condition has since deteriorated dramatically.
The chief PA negotiator has been receiving additional treatment at a hospital in central Israel, but doctors have warned that his condition cannot improve without an immediate transplant, the report said.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has appointed his intelligence chief, Majed Faraj, to replace Erekat temporarily in the capacity of chief negotiator if his condition worsens, or if he undergoes a transplant.
The reports on Erekat’s deteriorating health come in the midst of similar concerns regarding Abbas’s well-being after the 82-year-old was hospitalized in Ramallah Saturday due to exhaustion. The PA leader was released later that day, but the stay sparked resurgent rumors regarding his health as well as speculation over the identity of his eventual replacement.