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Erekat: PLO should consider rescinding its recognition of Israel

Top Palestinian negotiator says State of Israel should not be acknowledged as long as Palestine not recognized

File: Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks at a press conference after an emergency meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, on August 11, 2014. (AP/Amr Nabil)
File: Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks at a press conference after an emergency meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, on August 11, 2014. (AP/Amr Nabil)

Top Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said Thursday that Palestinians should consider rescinding their recognition of Israel until such time as Israel recognizes a Palestinian state, the Ma’an news agency reported.

The Palestine Liberation Organization, which rules the Palestinian Authority, first recognized Israel’s right to exist in 1988.

But in a comprehensive report to the PLO leadership on Thursday — titled “Determining Palestinian-Israeli Relations: Changing, Not Merely Improving, the Situation” — Erekat called for a thorough review of the status quo in relations, including the possibility of retracting the recognition.

Erekat also recommended that the PLO reject any recognition of Israel as a Jewish state — a condition some Israeli leaders have demanded for a permanent accord — warning it could have a detrimental effect on the rights of Israel’s Arab citizens.

He also spoke out against Israel’s demand to retain control of the Jordan Valley as part of a peace agreement and said the Palestinians must not make any concessions on East Jerusalem.

Earlier this month, Erekat warned that the Palestinian Authority would dissolve itself if a peace agreement with Israel — resulting in two states — is not reached by the end of this year.

Speaking on a panel in Jerusalem titled “Time for International Legitimacy,” organized by the Palestine-Israel Journal, Erekat said that a committee established by the PLO Central Council in its last meeting in March decided to place an ultimatum before Israel as a last resort.

“Israel will have to make a choice before the end of this year: Either we have a contract and partnership that will lead to a two-state solution, or Israel will be solely responsible [for the areas and the people] from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean,” he stated. “This cannot be sustained.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened in the past to “return the keys” to Israel for Palestinian civilians living in the West Bank.

“Do we expect negotiations with the government of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu? No. He stopped the negotiations, you all know that… What are you going to negotiate [about] with Palestinians? Ukraine?” Erekat wondered facetiously. “Can you [Netanyahu] utter the number 1967? Can you put a map on the table?”

Erekat scoffed at Netanyahu’s recent suggestion to delineate the confines of the settlement blocs to be kept under Israeli sovereignty in any peace deal.

“When I heard that, I looked in the mirror to see if I have a neon [sign] saying ‘Stupid’ on my forehead,” he remarked. “He wants us to legitimize the illegal settlements? No! … We are a state under occupation on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as our capital.”

Netanyahu reportedly told EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini in May that Israel is prepared to resume negotiations with the Palestinians and to define boundaries for the major settlement blocs in the West Bank. In a marked departure from his long-held stance, Netanyahu reportedly showed willingness to reach an understanding with the Palestinians that would involve Israeli territorial concessions in the West Bank.

Netanyahu also said he welcomed the general idea behind the Arab Peace Initiative — a regional agreement between Israel and the moderate Arab states.

A recent French draft document at the UN — subjecting renewed peace talks between the sides to an 18-month timetable — has reportedly been shelved following American pressure to wait until a final agreement is reached between the P5+1 group and Iran on the nuclear issue later this month.

Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.

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