Expressing support for a two-state solution ahead of US President Barack Obama’s spring visit, senior Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub said Thursday that “the Americans are the only ones who can build a bridge to peace.”
In an interview with Army Radio, Rajoub, a former head of Palestinian preventive security, was optimistic about the recently announced Obama visit, saying “the only person who can convince the Israelis to change their tune is the US president.”
Rajoub expressed frustration with Israel’s intransigence toward the Palestinians. “The time that Israel could act like the neighborhood bully is over,” he said.
The official, currently the president of the Palestinian soccer union, dismissed Israeli concerns that a peace deal with Abbas would not be binding on the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip. “I think that’s an excuse,” said Rajoub. “Tell us that you truly recognize the existence of the Palestinian people and then come to us with complaints.”
Rajoub added that all of the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, are prepared to make peace with Israel based on a two-state solution.
“Israelis deserve to live in peace and security within the 1967 borders,” he said. “We are ready to enter negotiations tomorrow.”
In December, Israel took away the VIP status that had previously allowed Rajoub to enter Israel without security checks. A defense ministry official said Rajoub and another Palestinian official, Nabil Shaath, had “incited to violence against Israel.”
In a separate interview with Walla news released on Thursday, Rajoub referred to himself as an optimist regarding a future peace between the peoples, but still laid the blame for the conflict squarely on Israel’s shoulders.
“Look in the mirror and see what is going on,” Rajoub told Walla. “Everything that is happening is your own doing — it is a response to the suffering, the killing, the destruction.”
“The ball is now in Israel’s court,” Rajoub said. “We have nothing to lose.”
Rajoub said the Palestinian people want to “live as neighbors – without occupation and without suffering,” and insisted that it was incumbent upon Israel to figure out how to end the occupation. “Our goal is to establish a state alongside the State of Israel, and dialogue is the way to resolve the conflict.”
Asked about leaving blocs of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as part of the framework of the two-state solution, Rajoub rejected the idea out of hand. “Absolutely not. There is not room for even one settler” beyond the pre-1967 lines, he said. The fact that it was even discussed at at earlier negotiations at Camp David was a “mistake,” Rajoub said.
“The Israeli right wing is using that as an excuse to build all the way to the Dead Sea,” he added.
Israel’s January election results gave Rajoub cause for optimism. He said that until now, more than half of the Israeli population was right-wing, but now “the political map has changed,” and added, ”I hope that [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu will understand this.”
Rajoub also has positive things to say about Yair Lapid, whose centrist Yesh Atid party garnered 19 seats in the new government.
“I think that Lapid is decent person,” said Rajoub. “He understands and speaks in a manner that truly makes hope possible.”
Rajoub added that while he had never met Lapid, he did know several of the new parliamentarians “and I know that they, indirectly, do speak of a ‘two states for two peoples’ solution.”