The PLO's U.S. Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat
The PLO's U.S. Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat Photo by Natasha Mozgovaya
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Maen Rashid Areikat, head of the PLO General Mission to the U.S., told "Haaretz" he is "disappointed" by J Street objection to the Palestinian UN bid, but added he understands their concerns.

"I am disappointed, because we thought J Street was going to be a different U.S. Jewish organization and play a different role, take a more courageous position, and understand why we are going to the UN, but I understand their reasons. It's obvious they wanted to issue a balanced paper. They also mentioned that they want to see the negotiations resumed, that they want to see the two-state solution. Their position on the UN Security Council resolution on settlements backfired, they were heavily criticized for it. They are in a delicate position and are trying to strike a balanced approach. But having said that, we were accustomed to J Street taking bold positions, that's what differentiated them from other Jewish groups in this country that blindly support Israeli position - they've been objective and reasonable. And they always understood the conflict and looked at it from both angles, urging both sides to work for the conflict solution. I still believe they are an important group, that they have a role to play and they can impact the thinking of the American Jewish community and the general public in this country".

Do you have any concerns about punitive steps the U.S. administration might take following the vote at the UN?

"If the U.S. downgrades our status, they will just downgrade their role. In all our discussions with administration officials, they didn’t signal that they will be taking measures against the Palestinian Authority at the level of the administration implicitly or explicitly. They warned about the potential Israeli steps and the congressmen positions, but to punish us because we go to the UN to seek admission? We are resorting to the peaceful approach, we are supported by over 130 countries - why would be punished for that?"

Is the Palestinian leadership united on this issue? I understand that Prime Minister Fayyad is not so sure that the UN step will be helpful.

"He is not opposed to it. I spoke to him two weeks ago in Ramallah. He is a strong proponent of the Palestinian statehood. Everybody agrees to the objective of establishing the Palestinian state, but there might be differing views on what the best methods are for implementing it. I wouldn't portray it as a fundamental difference. All Palestinian officials at the PLO are in favor of this UN approach."