Erekat: Netanyahu's Congress Speech 'Full of Lies,' Hampers Peace

Chief Palestinian negotiator says peace process cannot have a chance unless Netanyahu agrees that the Palestinian state should be established along the 1967 borders

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before the U.S. Congress yesterday on ending the conflict with the Palestinians placed obstacles in the way of peace and was "full of lies," Palestinian leaders said.

"There was nothing new in the speech, except for more obstacles for the peace process," said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Saeb Erekat
Dan Keinan

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said there can be no peace process unless Netanyahu agrees that the Palestinian state should be established along the 1967 borders, with some land swaps, as U.S. President Barack Obama said last week.

"The man has no vision and nothing to offer," Erekat said of Netanyahu, "and so we'll continue strengthening our unity and building up the institutions of a Palestinian state."

As for Netanyahu's call for the Palestinian Authority to break its ties with Hamas, Erekat said, the vey demand is "shameful." "We are choosing unity and not a man who has nothing to offer," Erekat said.

He said Palestinian leaders will meet today to discuss Netanyahu's speech, which Erekat termed "incitement" against Arabs. He also questioned its veracity.

"Netanyahu's speech was full of lies and distortions of history and geography," Erekat said. "Netanyahu chose the past over the future, the continuation of occupation and settlements over peace."

He said it wasn't true that all faiths could worship freely in Israeli-controlled Jerusalem, since hundreds of thousands of Muslim and Christian Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are barred from visiting the city's holy sites.

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al ) said Netanyahu "misled the Congressmen when he spoke about real rights for the Arab minority in Israel."

"There isn't a single field in which there's equality between Jews and Arabs," he said. "The ovations for Netanyahu express double standards and fawning by people who think that giving Arabs food, drink and salaries means equality and democracy."

Tibi said Netanyahu was headed for a dead end that will result in a disaster for everyone, including the Israelis.

"Netanyahu's conditions are unacceptable, which makes going to the UN [to declare Palestinian statehood] inevitable," he said. "Netanyahu's word games are nothing new, they're just a semantic trick meant to preserve his right-wing coalition."

Jewish opposition figures also denounced the speech.

MK Isaac Herzog, who is in the running for Labor Party chairman, said Netanyahu gave the speech of a propagandist, not a true leader.

"It expressed much of the Israeli consensus but lacked the daring required by these historic times and the ability to change the Middle East," he said. "Another opportunity missed."

Amram Mitzna, who is running against Herzog for the party leadership, said "polished speeches, ratings and applause are not an alternative to reality."

"Netanyahu is endangering Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," he said.