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Erekat: US Jews increasingly advocate for Palestinian cause

Growing activism shows world is ‘no longer tolerating’ Israeli policies, top PLO official says; vows no normalization with Arab world before peace deal

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat in his Ramallah office, November 23, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat in his Ramallah office, November 23, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

An increasing number of Jewish Americans are actively advocating for the Palestinian cause, which shows that the world is no longer “tolerating” Israel’s policies in the West Bank, top Palestinian official Saeb Erekat told The Times of Israel.

“Our message to the world is that justice rather than impunity is going to bring a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians. The growing number of American Jews, for example, that are calling for justice for Palestine and are taking action for that end, is an indication that the world is no longer tolerating the policies of dictation of the extremist Israeli government,” Erekat said in an email interview conducted before Wednesday’s Tel Aviv terrorist attack, in which four Israelis were killed.

A veteran Palestinian peace negotiator and the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Erekat hailed as a “significant step” the very fact that last Friday’s peace conference in Paris took place.

“Every reaffirmation to the need to fully end the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 is important,” he said. The summit’s final communiqué referred to United Nations Security resolutions 242 and 338, which, he argued, “make clear the inadmissibility of acquiring land by use of force and call upon Israel to withdraw to the 1967 border.”

‘Those who pushed to have a statement without deadlines that they are not making any favor to anyone, not even to the Israelis’

However, he admitted “that there were some elements missing,” such a clear time-frame for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

“That’s why we must continue our dialogue with the international community. Having said so, I would like to tell those who pushed to have a statement without deadlines that they are not making any favor to anyone, not even to the Israelis,” he said.

Despite their support for the Paris summit, the Palestinians will continue their “international efforts,” he vowed, though he refused to say whether and when Ramallah would resume its efforts to pass an anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations Security Council.

He also rejected the notion, advanced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that a full normalization with the Arab world could occur before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached. Netanyahu recently partially embraced the Arab Peace Initiative and indicated that Arab-Israel reconciliation could pressure Ramallah into concessions.

“Look at the official statement released by Saudi Arabia making clear that the Arab Peace Initiative is not going to change. Israel must end its occupation before any normalization takes place,” he said. “The fact that Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the Arab League were represented in Paris doesn’t mean that there is a green light for Arab normalization with Israel, but it represents the Arab sentiment that the freedom of Palestine is determinant for a future of peace in our region.”

French President Francois Hollande (C), United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (C-L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (C-R), US Secretary of State John Kerry (4th R), European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini (3rd R) and officials pose for a group photo at an international meeting in a bid to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in Paris, on June 3, 2016. (AFP Photo/Pool/Kamil Zihnioglu)
French President Francois Hollande (C), United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (C-L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (C-R), US Secretary of State John Kerry (4th R), European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini (3rd R) and officials pose for a group photo at an international meeting in a bid to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in Paris, on June 3, 2016. (AFP Photo/Pool/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Erekat dismissed Netanyahu’s statements about a “regional process,” presumably led by Egypt, to advance the peace process outside the framework of international bodies.

“Mr. Netanyahu is simply trying to show that there is no need for a multilateral-international involvement. He’s recycling talking points, which is the maximum he could do, and probably soon will repeat his call to set a tent between West Jerusalem and Ramallah for negotiations to take place,” Erekat said. But anything other than a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines is “cheap talk and the Arabs know it well,” he said. Ramallah is “acting in full coordination with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and others,” he added.

“Egypt’s willingness to contribute to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine has been presented within the context of the French Initiative, not outside of it,” the posited.

Having embraced the Paris peace conference, which Israeli vigorously rejected, does not mean that the Palestinians will stop seeking other avenues to internationalize their struggle against Israel, Erekat said. “We will take actions whenever needed in order to defend our rights,” he vowed.

“We will continue calling to ban settlement products, we will continue calling for divestment from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation, and we will continue our work in all international forums. The question of whether we are going to present a resolution to the Security Council or not will be decided in due time, and in coordination with our partners.”

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