Photo by: Ron Friedman
Erekat in TA: Optimistic about talks
By RON FRIEDMAN
Chief PA negotiator admits: Our mistakes 'Could fill volumes'.
In a rare direct address to the Israeli public, chief Palestinian negotiator
Saeb Erekat on Sunday reiterated the Palestinian Authority's desire for a just
peace with Israel based on the two-state solution.
In a speech before diplomats, academics and journalists at the Institute for
National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Erekat said the time for
negotiations was over, and the time had come for making decisions.
"I know that many in Palestine and Israel today doubt the possibility that
peace can be achieved. I beg to differ," said Erekat.
"We don't need to reinvent the wheel. There can be a two-state solution based
on the 1967 borders, with land swaps and solutions for the refugees," he
"Many people thought that there was no progress with the negotiations that have
taken place over the years because Palestinians and Israelis have eyes that
only see things that are not achieved. But I believe that Palestinians and
Israelis, over the last decade of negotiations, have come a long, long way."
Erekat said he had no hope or desire that the sides would adopt each other's
ideologies, religions or historical narratives, but that he did sincerely
believe that a two-state solution was a realistic option and that since the
terms of the agreement were known, it was up to the leaders of both sides to
make the crucial choices.
Erekat added that the talks with special envoy George Mitchell started where
the talks between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and former
prime minister Ehud Olmert ended.
"The Americans cannot make peace for us. Americans cannot make the concessions
that are required by Palestinians or Israelis. Americans cannot make decisions
for Palestinians and Israelis," said Erekat. "Many people say that the
proximity talks after 19 years is a regression, that Palestinians not sitting
face-to-face with Israelis is a step backward.
"That can be argued, but another argument in the science of negotiations is
that proximity is when two sides exhaust everything they have - they have
turned over every stone, they cannot conclude what they are trying to achieve.
Then comes a third party to do four tasks: to go between, to facilitate, to
arbitrate and to mediate," he asserted.
"In the end, though, it is up to the two parties to make the decision," he
said, declaring that "the Palestinian leadership, Mahmoud Abbas, is fully ready
for what it takes to achieve the endgame."
Speaking about the Arab Peace Initiative, Erekat turned the famous saying that
"the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" around and
directed it at Israel, garnering laughter from the crowd. But he also admitted
to Palestinian mistakes.
"You could fill volumes on the mistakes we have made, but you must understand,
we are a very young authority," he said.
Talking about the sides' security arrangements under a final agreement, Erekat
said that "limited arms doesn't mean limited dignity. We will not accept
Israeli presence in the Palestinian state."
Erekat said that the two-state solution was the ideal solution, but also hinted
at the alternative.
"I am not going to waste my time talking about interim solutions. If at the end
of the day, as Palestinians, we are willing to accommodate Israeli requests and
end our nakba [catastrophe], and you still insist that my hometown Jericho
should be called Yeriho and Nablus be called Shechem, talk to me. I'm not
scared," said Erekat. "Now it is the moment of truth. Israelis need an end to
conflict. Israelis need to understand that there is a leadership that is
willing to [meet] the requirements for peace."
Talking about the rift between Gaza and the West Bank, Erekat said the sides
were working on finding a solution, but would not be able to do so without an
agreement with Israel.
"If we have an endgame solution, we will prevail; if not, we will lose," he
Responding to a question asking why the Palestinians required Arab approval to
enter proximity talks, Erekat said the Palestinians did not and never would
seek Arab permission, but wanted the support of its neighbors, chiefly Jordan
Erekat said the PA would not declare a Palestinian state unilaterally, but that
everything was currently in motion for having the necessary institutions in
place. He said Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's state-building plan was also
Abbas's plan and that they hoped to receive formal recognition of statehood
from all the countries in the European Union.
When asked if the PA would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Erekat shot
back, "Why are you asking me to join the Zionist movement? I don't want to be a
Zionist... Your name is the State of Israel. I recognize you as the State of
Israel. If you want to call yourselves the Eternal, United, Historical,
Biblical, Hebrew Nation of Jews from now to the future, who cares?"
He stressed that "I'm not here begging peace from you; I'm just telling you a
story. The Palestinian people's patience with me is running out. If you want to
maintain the position of occupier under a different name, it won't happen."
Erekat urged Israel "to seize the chance. Mitchell and [US President Barack]
Obama deserve to be given a chance, but they can't make the concessions. It is
up to us."
US Jewish group urges concessions
By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
Activist petition calls on Israel, PA to ensure success of talks.
A group of American Jewish activists and leaders has signed a petition
calling on the Israelis and Palestinians to offer "significant concessions and
commitments by both sides" to enable the "extremely fragile" proximity talks to
The petition, which models itself after a similar initiative by a group
of European Jews last month, has garnered the signatures of some of the most
highly placed Jewish thinkers and activists.
The list includes Jeffrey Solomon, the chief executive of the Andrea and
Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, the head of the
Reform rabbinate's umbrella body, and Prof. Steven Cohen, a respected Hebrew
University scholar of Jewish sociology and demographics.
"We believe without reservation that 'Israel is the national home of the
Jewish people,'" the petition states, quoting from Israel's own Declaration of
Independence, "and we therefore feel both entitled and obligated to make our
As with the European JCall petition and the Washington-based J Street
organization, this petition also "endorse[s] the American government's vigorous
encouragement of the parties to make the concessions necessary for negotiations
"Together with all Israeli citizens, both Jews and Arabs, we lament the
decades of death and destruction that have plagued the Land of Israel," it
reads. "We categorically condemn terrorism and we mourn the tragic loss of
blood and treasure that has afflicted the region over the years."
However, "at the same time, we abhor the continuing occupation that has
persisted for far too long; it cannot and should not be sustained.
"Ultimately, the long-term security and welfare of the democratic Jewish
State of Israel depend upon a genuine resolution of the conflict within the
framework of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in comity,"
the petition states.
Citing the "extremely fragile hope" for peace represented by the
proximity talks, the petition calls on Israel to immediately "cease
construction of housing in the disputed territories," "dismantle the
settlements considered illegal under Israeli law," and "protect Palestinians
from maltreatment and violence by extreme elements of the settler community."
It also calls on Israel to "set aside its insistence on exclusive
sovereignty over all of expanded Jerusalem, including Arab neighborhoods,
where, we anticipate, the designated capital of the new state of Palestine will
The Palestinians, too, must end terrorism and "set aside their claimed
'right of return' to Israel, which would undermine the very notion of a Jewish
They must also "vigorously oppose incitement against Israel."
While acknowledging that "it is the citizens of Israel and their
neighbors who will decide on their future," the petition insists on the
signatories' right "to call attention to decisions the government of Israel
takes which, in our view, endanger the State we hold so dear."
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]