PA official decries Rivlin’s ‘apartheid’ West Bank visit
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PA official decries Rivlin’s ‘apartheid’ West Bank visit

Saeb Erekat claims president’s settlement tour was part of a plan to undermine French peace initiative

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

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)

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat took President Reuven Rivlin to task Tuesday over his visit a day earlier visit to West Bank settlements he said are an expression of Israel’s system of “apartheid.”

Rivlin on Monday toured settlements in the Binyamin Regional Council, north of Jerusalem — the first time he has done so since taking office.

Erekat told the PA’s official Wafa news agency that the visit reflects Israel’s “insistence on an apartheid model, and its refusal to abide by international agreements.”

“The Israeli president recognizes that the settlements are illegal and tantamount to a war crime,” Erekat said.

President Reuven Rivlin visits the Binyamin Regional Council in the West Bank on Monday, June 6, 2016 (Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin visits the Binyamin Regional Council in the West Bank on Monday, June 6, 2016 (Mark Neiman/GPO)

He called on the world to denounce Israeli “terrorism” and to stop treating Israel “as if it were a country above the law.”

Israel maintains the fate of settlements will be decided through final status peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Rivlin’s West Bank visit, Erekat contended, was also part of Israel’s attempts to sabotage the new peace initiative by France, which hosted a summit of officials from 28 nations in Paris on Friday. The summit, to which neither Israel nor the Palestinians were invited, discussed the future of the Middle East peace process, and ended with a statement of support for the two-state solution and a warning of the dangers of violence and settlement construction.

Israel has dismissed France’s bid to revive the peace process, arguing direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians are the only way ahead.

According to Israel National News, Rivlin said during his tour that he told US President Barack Obama that he believed a two-state solution was no longer relevant.

The president also praised Israelis who have moved to the settlements.

“You settled here in cooperation with the government of Israel, and for that I bless you,” he said.

A long-time opponent of a two-state solution, Rivlin indicated late last year that a sovereign Palestine state alongside Israel, within the framework of a joint confederation, was the only way toward peace. The president is also a determined advocate for equality among Jews and Arabs.

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