PLO envoy: A Palestinian state would ‘celebrate Jewish connection to Jerusalem’
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The two-state solution is 'a Palestinian concession'

PLO envoy: A Palestinian state would ‘celebrate Jewish connection to Jerusalem’

Husam Zomlot tells J Street conference Palestinians won't accept a 'state-minus,' or one without 'two-thirds of the Palestinian people' -- a reference to refugee demands

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

The PLO's envoy to Washington Husam Zomlot addresses J Street's 2018 national conference on April 16, 2018, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. (Screen capture)
The PLO's envoy to Washington Husam Zomlot addresses J Street's 2018 national conference on April 16, 2018, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. (Screen capture)

WASHINGTON, DC — The Palestine Liberation Organization’s envoy to the US capital said Monday that Palestinians would “celebrate the Jewish connection to Jerusalem” once a Palestinian state was established with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“Once a state of Palestine is established, once that state has East Jerusalem as its capital, that city will not only recognize the Jewish connection, but we will celebrate the Jewish connection to Jerusalem,” Husam Zomlot told supporters of J Street.

Speaking at the dovish group’s national conference, Zomlot offered a scathing critique of the Donald Trump administration’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio, particularly the US president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.

That decision, Zomlot said, was not “taking Jerusalem off the table,” as the president has said, but “removing the table all together.”

That message was well received by the liberal Mideast advocacy group, though at several points throughout his address at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, he was heckled. One such heckler could be heard shouting, “You’re not the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

Zomlot castigated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as both uncommitted and unwilling to broker a fair and equitable peace deal between the two sides.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on April 15, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool/Flash90)

“It has become bluntly clear that Israel’s prime minister, Netanyahu, has only become interested in a win-all, lose-all formula,” the Palestinian diplomat said.

At one point, Zomlot laid out Palestinian terms for an accord. He called for a two-state solution, which he said was “never a Palestinian demand, but a Palestinian concession.”

In another jab at Netanyahu, Zomlot said the Palestinians would not accept “redefining what the two-state solution means — no to that, big fat no.” He added, “no to state-minus,” a phrase the Israeli premier has used to describe the kind of Palestinian entity he would allow to emerge under his watch.

Zomlot went on, “No to interim arrangements — we’ve done that; no lasting process — we’ve done that. We want a lasting peace; no to a state with provisional borders; no to a state without East Jerusalem as its capital.

“No to a state at the expense of two-thirds of the Palestinian people,” he said, referring to Palestinian refugees.

Zomlot concluded, “No state without Gaza and no state in Gaza. No state with one Israeli soldier on its soil.”

Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli troops at the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, April 13, 2018. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

Referring to the recent violent eruptions in the Gaza Strip, Zomlot said the Palestinian Authority was committed to nonviolence. “No matter how many snipers there are around Gaza now, we shall believe in the power of nonviolence,” he said.

For the last several weeks, the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, has been galvanizing weekly protests there, in which some demonstrators have sought to break the security fence and infiltrate Israel proper.

The Israel Defense Forces has so far killed at least 30 Palestinians in border clashes, according to the Hamas-run Gazan health ministry. One was apparently shot in the torso while wearing a “press” vest and filming in an area engulfed in thick black smoke caused by protesters setting tires on fire.

Israel says it opens fire when necessary to stop damage to the border fence, infiltrations, and attempted attacks. It alleges that Hamas, whose leaders have said the demonstrations are ultimately aimed at erasing the border and liberating Palestine, is seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.

The Trump administration has called for Hamas to cede control of the coastal enclave to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

Trump also signed into law recently the Taylor Force Act, legislation that would cut US aid to the Palestinian Authority if it does not cease its program of making social welfare payments to the families of Palestinian terrorists.

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