Maen Rashid Areikat
Palestinian ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat speaking with a picture of Rachel Corrie at his side. Photo by Natasha Mozgovaya
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While the Jewish community of Washington, D.C. was busy lighting the first Hanukkah candle, the Palestinian mission to the United States held an event at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City marking at the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Several weeks before the Republicans are to take command of the U.S. House of Representatives on Capitol Hill, the head of the Palestinian mission to the U.S., Maen Rashid Areikat, sounded quite frustrated with the peace process - and wary of the prospects of the conduct of a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

"I think the US Congress should act in a responsible manner," he told Haaretz. "If they insist that the Palestinians and the Israelis should sort their problems, they should refrain from taking any steps that could undermine this process. While they call on the Palestinian side to be engaged, to talk to the Israelis, to resume negotiations - they continue circulating these stupid 'dear colleague' letters and resolutions, as if they are the ones who will decide the future of the conflict, and that’s not the case - the Israelis and the Palestinians will decide it."

"It’s time for them to understand that they need to support the efforts of the administration to solve the conflict and not be more Catholic than the Pope. Enough to interference in the negotiation process. If they cannot play the constructive role to support the process - let them get busy with the domestic issues. We do not want them to meddle and interfere in the Palestinian-Israeli affairs and to complicate process rather than help. I think they have to understand this message."

Areikat said that freezing settlement activity would be an important step if Israel wanted to send a "clear and unequivocal signal to the Palestinians that [it] is genuine."

"Netanyahu said in September that President [Mahmoud] Abbas is his partner, that he believes he can reach an agreement in a year - that he wants to see a Palestinian state – why can’t he translate his statements into action?" Areikat asked. "The issue is the land, the territory - why can’t we sit and discuss the future of this land and define the borders? Whatever is theirs is theirs, whatever is ours is ours."

Areikat said that the Palestinians had become "very, very skeptical" of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"If [Netanyahu] wants to - he can go to the public and tell the Israeli people that what’s at stake is much more important than adding a few housing units here and there. What is at stake is the future of the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples. And the future of the two states. If he thinks the settlements and appeasing the right-wing parties in his coalition are more important than the conflict with the Palestinians - then there is something wrong with it.”

Asked why the Palestinians didn't enter direct talks during Israel's ten-month freeze of settlement construction that expired in September, Areikat alleged that Israel never responded to numerous proposals and ideas sent by the Palestinians via the Americans during that period.

At the event in Pentagon City, the parents of Rachel Corrie - a member of the International Solidarity Movement who was killed when she was struck by an IDF bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003 - received award on their daughter's behalf.

Craig and Cindy Corrie have sued Israel over their daughter's death and a trial on the case has begun in Israel, though proceeding were on hold until late December.

"For us it’s been a long process," Cindy Corrie told Haaretz. "I feel like we’ve exposed things about the army police investigation that I believe should concern every Israeli citizen."

"We’ve been in Israel for months," she said. "We have a lot of friends in Israel, Jewish friends, Palestinian Israelis, who come to the court to support us. I know there are probably many people who hate us, but these are not people I see.”

Asked about her support of a divestment campaign against Israel, Cindy Corrie said: "It’s the way to raise the level of discussion of these issues. Do I wish it could end without that? Yes. Do I wish what’s going on between Hillary Clinton, President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu will solve it? Of course. But the governments have proven they are not able to resolve the situation. People know the direction, and I feel the civil society has an obligation to respond in a non-violent way. I see the boycott sanction as a part of that.”