World should punish ‘racist’ Israel, PA official says

Saeb Erekat takes Jewish state to task in interview with Palestinian media, says Israeli intransigence prevents 2-state solution

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

Saeb Erekat (photo credit: Issan Rimawi/Flash90)
Saeb Erekat (photo credit: Issan Rimawi/Flash90)

Saeb Erekat, the chief peace negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, castigated Israel on Tuesday as a “racist regime” that the world should rise up against and punish, and reiterated that the Palestinians will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a key Israeli demand during the current peace talks.

Speaking about a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference last week with his Israeli counterpart, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Erekat said, “Livni accused us of not wanting peace, and I told her that Israel is racist against Palestinians in ways that did not happen in South Africa. The world should rise against this racist regime, hold it accountable and punish it.”

“I told her in front of the whole world that we will not change our history, our religion or our civilization. We are the lawful sons of Palestine, [and] we will not accept Israel as a Jewish state,” Erekat said, according to the Ma’an news agency.

During the panel with Livni, Erekat said the demand to recognize Israel was unacceptable. “When you say ‘accept Israel as a Jewish state’ you are asking me to change my narrative,” he claimed, asserting that his ancestors lived in the region “5,500 years before Joshua Bin-Nun came and burned my hometown Jericho.”

Before Munich, Erekat met last week with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington. On Tuesday he said that “Kerry did not present anything written or official.” The Palestinians are still awaiting the proposed framework agreement, which is to guide the final-status talks between the two sides, but it has been postponed due to “deep issues with Israel, which rejects the two-state solution and international law,” he added.

Since the current round of peace negotiations began in July 2013, Israel has “build over 10,000 settler homes, demolished over 219 Palestinian homes and killed over 40 Palestinians,” according to Erekat.

Israel must be “held accountable by the international community, and not just condemned and denounced,” he said.

The US-backed peace talks, held behind closed doors between negotiating teams, have so far produced little result ahead of the agreed-upon nine-month deadline in April. Kerry is expected to present soon a so-called “framework agreement,” a set of guidelines for final-status peace talks, to be agreed upon by both the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams.

Israeli right-wing politicians castigated Kerry on Saturday for comments he made at the Munich conference, warning Israel of dire consequences if the current peace effort fails.

Kerry said he was utterly certain that the current status quo was “not sustainable… It’s illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity. There’s a momentary peace.” But that would end if the talks failed, he said, noting that already Israel was facing increased delegitimization and boycott threats.

The Palestinians have threatened to step up efforts to gain recognition through international bodies should peace talks fail, alongside pushing for strong international sanctions against Israel.

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