Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Tuesday rejected comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and new Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman lending some support for an Arab peace plan, saying it was a PR campaign designed to distract the world from Israel’s “continued settler-colonial policies and rejectionist positions.”
In a dramatic move, Netanyahu on Monday partially endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative, offering to negotiate with the Arab world regarding the parameters of the plan, which promises Israel full diplomatic ties with 57 Arab and Muslim states in return for cementing a peace accord with the Palestinians.
A statement from Erekat’s office described the position adopted by “war minister” Liberman and Netanyahu as “new public relations strategies promoted by the occupying government to shield Israel from having to adhere to the will of the international community and distract from its continued settler-colonial policies and rejectionist positions.”
“We are used to Netanyahu and his government’s inconsistencies and contradictions between words and actions,” Erekat said. “Peace must translate words into action by, first and foremost by ending the manufacture of facts on the ground, the cessation of settlement, ending the Judaization of Jerusalem, stopping extrajudicial executions, halting all demolition of homes, releasing the detention of bodies, lifting the siege, recognition of the 1967 borders, and to respect and implement the signed agreements.”
The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process on Tuesday welcomed the statements by Netanyahu and Liberman.
Nickolay Mladenov said the comments made a day earlier could “help advance negotiations on achieving a two-state solution.”
Mladenov said that the Middle East Quartet, which brings the United Nations, the US, the European Union and Russia together to mediate an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, had “repeatedly emphasized the significance and importance of the Arab Peace Initiative with its vision for a comprehensive settlement of the conflict and as an opportunity for building a regional security framework.”
“This opportunity should not be missed and must be followed up with concrete and timely action.”
The proposal was first put forward by Riyadh in 2002, but has languished since, with Israel regarding the peace plan as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition it couldn’t possibly embrace.
In 2013, the Arab League showed some flexibility in allowing that, to reach a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “comparable,” mutually agreed and “minor” land swaps could be possible.
On Monday night, Netanyahu said the plan “contains positive elements that could help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians,” going further than he has before in showing support for the initiative.
The statement came after months of Netanyahu and other Jerusalem officials hinting at closer ties with moderate Sunni states in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal, saying those states could help broker an arrangement with the Palestinians.
“We are willing to negotiate with the Arab states revisions to that initiative so that it reflects the dramatic changes in our region since 2002 but maintains the agreed goal of two states for two peoples,” Netanyahu said Monday night, making his statement first in Hebrew and then repeating it in English.
Standing next to Netanyahu Monday night, Liberman said he fully endorsed the prime minister’s statement, including his call for an agreement leading to two states for two peoples.
“I certainly agree that in the Arab Peace Initiative there are some very positive elements that will enable us to conduct serious dialogue with our neighbors in the region.”
Liberman’s addition to the coalition has been met with skepticism in the international community and his Monday speech accepting the two-state solution was seen by many as an attempt to calm fears.
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