Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—A Palestinian–Arab ministerial delegation is set to visit Washington later this month to discuss the stalled Arab–Israeli peace process with US Secretary of State John Kerry following the establishment of the Hamas–Fatah Palestinian Unity Government. The announcement comes in the wake of Tel Aviv announcing the expansion of settlement-building activities and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman saying that any Palestinian unity government will only have a “short window” of viability in Washington.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Fatah spokesman Azzam Al-Ahmad, said: “It is important that this meeting takes place during this phase, following the establishment of a national consensus government and the Israeli position towards this represented by Tel Aviv taking punitive measures against the Palestinian people. But for every step that Israel takes against us, we will respond with matching steps.”
“We have a lot to say and do, particularly in response to the lack of movement in the peace process. There must be Arab–Palestinian coordination to reach a unified Arab position,” he added.
Earlier this month, Tel Aviv announced that it will seek to construct nearly 1,500 housing units in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem—the putative capital of any future Palestinian state. Israel’s Housing Ministry described the bid as “an appropriate Zionist response to the establishment of the Palestinian terror government.” Israeli authorities subsequently revived the plans to increase the number of housing units to 1,800.
The Fatah official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Palestinian–Arab ministerial delegation will head to Washington on 18–19 June, at the same time that an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit is set to take place in Jeddah. The delegation is specifically set to discuss Israeli settlement building and the stalled Palestinian–Israeli negotiations. Ahmad added that he will likely head the Arab delegation.
A Palestinian unity government can only enjoy a “short window” of viability in Washington, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez said earlier this week.
“Palestinians must choose between peace with Israel as a Jewish state and a marriage with Hamas, a terrorist organization,” the Republican senator from New Jersey said in comments during an American Jewish Committee meeting.
Ahmad hailed the Hamas–Fatah reconciliation, saying that it represented a necessary step in the path of peace. “We tried seven years of division,” he said. Parties may have differences of opinions and clash sometimes, but the country does not divide, and we are now ending the division politically through the establishment of a national consensus government.”
“But ending the manifestations of this division takes time until we can make sure that the Palestinians are spared the mistakes of the past,” he added.
Saudi Arabia on Monday formally welcomed the establishment of the Palestinian Unity government, hailing the step as an “important” measure.
Saudi Arabia’s cabinet on Monday called on the international community to extend its full support to the new Palestinian unity government and reject Israeli attempts to undermine the peace process through continued settlement-building.
“The international community should provide means of support . . . to the new government so as to enable it to carry out its functions in order to restore the legitimate rights of the Palestinians,” a Saudi cabinet statement read. The cabinet meeting was chaired by Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.