Palestinians Do Not Take Netanyahu’s Peace Declarations Seriously

'Netanyahu doesn’t want to end the occupation but to intensify it, and he thinks he’ll get Arab backing for this. It won’t happen,' says senior Palestinian official.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 29, 2017.
TIKSA NEGERI/REUTERS

Senior Palestinian Authority officials were dismissive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declarations regarding a regional peace arrangement and the possibility that the Americans would organize a summit of Arab leaders that Israel would attend to advance such a move.

Dr. Husam Zomlot, the strategic adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Haaretz that if Netanyahu and Israel want a regional approach to peacemaking it can refer to the Arab Peace Initiative that was approved in Beirut in 2002 and has the support of all the Arab states. The principles of this initiative are an end to the occupation, establishing a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, and a resolution of core issues like Jerusalem and refugees. Then there would be normalization with the rest of the Arab world.

“The one who rejected this initiative was Israel, and thus Netanyahu’s talk of a regional initiative is a misrepresentation,” said Zomlot. “Netanyahu doesn’t want to end the occupation but to intensify it, and he thinks he’ll get Arab backing for this. It won’t happen.”

There were numerous consultations held Thursday in Abbas’ office, including with Arab states, to discuss the remarks by Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump regarding a regional initiative. The office issued a statement saying, “The Palestinian leadership is prepared to work positively with Donald Trump’s administration. The Palestinian Authority calls on Prime Minister Netanyahu to respond to the demand by President Trump and the international community to freeze construction in the settlements, including in East Jerusalem.

"The Palestinian leadership is prepared to renew the diplomatic process on the basis of a solution to all the core issues in accordance with decisions by the international community and the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002,” it added.

This position also got the backing of Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who met Thursday with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the league’s headquarters in Cairo. Gheit said that the Palestinian issue is a central issue for the Arab states and that any arrangement would have to be based on the two-state solution.

Cairo did not respond to the Trump-Netanyahu press conference but the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement Wednesday in which it categorically rejected ideas like establishing a Palestinian state in the Sinai Peninsula or expanding the Gaza Strip into Sinai. “We totally reject these types of ideas and reports, and clarify that Egypt’s position is and has always been the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.”

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on Arab leaders and anyone who had adopted negotiating as a strategy to acknowledge its failure and to understand that the only way to achieve anything is by resistance. He attacked those Arab leaders, particularly those of the Gulf states, who did not come out against Netanyahu when he said that he had Arab allies. “This proves the weakness and hypocrisy of those countries,” he said.