Chief PA Negotiator: Israel Hypocritical on Palestinian Reconciliation

Israel complains the Palestinian Authority does not represent Gaza, but condemns attempts to unite with Hamas, Saeb Erekat said in an interview.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.Credit: AP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday accused Israel of hypocrisy in opposing the Palestinian Authority’s reconciliation deal with Hamas.

During the past nine months of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, attorney Isaac Molho, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal envoy to the talks, complained repeatedly that the PA does not represent the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and that Israel had no assurance the PA would be able to impose a future peace deal on Hamas, Erekat said in an interview with Radio Ashams in Nazareth.

“Molho held this issue as a sword and laid it on our necks: What will you do with Gaza, and how will you deal with Gaza?” Erekat said. “And now they’re attacking us for turning our faces toward Palestinian national unity,” Erekat said in the interview. “Israel has forgotten that it reached agreements and understandings with Hamas under the auspices of Sheikh Morsi, yet it attacks us for implementing the reconciliation agreements.” In 2012, then-Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi brokered a deal that ended a round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

On Thursday, Fatah head of international relations Nabil Sha'ath also addressed the Israeli response to the Palestinian reconciliation, and said Netanyahu is in a "Catch 22": "On one hand, before reconciliation with Hamas, the claim was that Fatah has no control over Hamas and thus doesn't represent all Palestinians, and on the other hand, after the deal, the claim is we made an agreement with a terror organization."

Erekat said the recent breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian talks was Israel’s decision and that the last few meetings with American mediators had been devoted to finding a way to extend the negotiations. “If Netanyahu’s intentions were honest, we would have reached an agreement within nine months,” he said.

Erekat also confirmed a statement by President Shimon Peres earlier this week that significant progress had been made in Peres’ talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in 2011, but that the talks ended after Netanyahu ordered Peres not to attend a scheduled meeting in Amman, Jordan.

“I can confirm that there were indeed contacts and talks with Peres on several occasions, including in London, and a meeting was arranged under Jordanian auspices in Amman,” Erekat said. “I and Abu Mazen [Abbas] were there, and we waited, but Peres never arrived and explained that Netanyahu prevented him even from holding the meeting.”

Erekat did not detail the understandings reached with Peres, but said they included a border based on that Israel had prior to the summer of 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank.

Peres said in an interview with Channel 2 television on Tuesday that he and Abbas had been on the verge of signing a deal when Netanyahu ordered an end to the talks, which he had originally approved.

He and Abbas had reached agreement on “almost every point,” Peres said, including the refugees and Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. But “Netanyahu had the impression there was a better offer, [which would be] brought by Tony Blair.” Blair was, and still is, special envoy on behalf of the Quartet on the Middle East, comprised of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

Regarding Palestinian refugees, Peres said, Abbas “accepted the Arab [League] formulation that the refugee problem will be solved in a ‘just and agreed’ fashion.” As for borders, “Instead of speaking about the 1967 borders, we spoke about the size of the [Palestinian] state’s territory and not about its borders,” so as to allow for territorial swaps, Peres said. “He [Abbas] agreed to this.”

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