PLO Envoy Tells U.S. Jews: Peace Process Must Lead to Palestinian State

At NYU conference, Maen Rashid Areikat says negotiations have lost credibility amid continued Israeli construction in the West Bank.

The Palestinian representative to the United States said Wednesday that his people could not engage in peace negotiations without certainty that the process would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.

We cannot be at the process unless it clearly states that at its end we get to point B, establishment of the Palestinian sovereign independent state," Maen Rashid Areikat told a conference at the Berman Jewish Policy Archive and the Taub Center for Israel Studies at New York University:

"The painful truth is that Israel never stopped settlements without regard to status of settlements," added Areikat. "We need to know what are the terms of reference to this process, what is the end game of this process. Because looking back on the last 20 years we were lost in technicalities and never had a chance to sit and hear, how do you envision the Palestinian state, in what borders?"

The PLO's U.S. Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat
Natasha Mozgovaya

"But how do you expect the Palestinian leadership to continue with negotiations – when we are getting ready to meet our Israeli counterparts, there is an announcement that the Municipality of Jerusalem wants to build another units in East Jerusalem," he added. "What credibility do they have? How can we negotiate when they have measures on the ground sending our people that message?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering a plan to cooperate with the Palestinians on the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders, as part of an interim peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority that would be implemented immediately, sources in the Prime Minister's Office said on Tuesday.

Netanyahu's decision to consider changing his strategy, which he said in recent consultations with advisers was spurred by the recent anti-government protests in the Arab world, is a step back from his previous statement that he wants to attempt to reach a final-status agreement within a year.

"The Palestinians aren't ready to reach a final-status agreement to end the conflict, in light of the instability in the region," Netanyahu reportedly said.

The PMO sources said that at the same time that Netanyahu would be pursuing an interim peace deal, Israel and the PA would negotiate the principles of a future final-status agreement and the Palestinians would receive guarantees regarding the permanent borders of a Palestinian state.

"We don't want to evade a final-status agreement, but an interim agreement is the way to get there," a PMO official said.

The details of the plan Netanyahu is considering are not yet clear. It remains to be seen whether Netanyahu is genuinely interested in moving forward with the peace process or is floating a trial balloon with the expectation that the Palestinians will reject the proposal, bolstering the "no partner" claim.