WASHINGTON, Asharq Al-Awsat – Chief Palestinian negotiation, Saeb Erekat, sent a clear message to the US administration this week over the ongoing peace negotiations, saying that the time for talking about negotiations has ended, and now is the time to take the difficult decisions. He expressed the Palestinian side’s willingness to grant Washington two or three weeks to obtain a final answer on Israel’s position on a settlement freeze. Erekat said “in such a case, there will be no need for the meeting of the Arab Monitoring Committee that is scheduled to meet in Cairo on 9 November.”
The Palestinian negotiating delegation, including Hanan Ashrawi, has been visiting Washington over the past two days, to put forward the Palestinian point of view with regards to the negotiations.
During a forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center on Thursday, Erekat said that “the time has come to take the hard decisions rather than negotiations, and the Americans and Israelis know this.” He added “we have concluded the issue of negotiations, and now is the time for decisions, for everybody knows the form of the solution, we know where territory exchange will take place and we have found a solution to eastern Jerusalem and the mechanism that will determine this, and we also know the solution to the issues of refugees and security.” He also said “no stone has gone unturned” in this search for a solution, and now the time has come to take the decision to make this solution a reality.
This was the message delivered by Erekat to US officials, including US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, and US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, during a meeting with them in Washington. Erekat also brought with him evidence that the Israelis had breached the 10-month settlement freeze that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised.
Erekat issued a statement on Thursday that US officials had promised a quick response to the Palestinian demands for a freeze on Israeli settlement activity. He also said that “the time has come to resolve this issue, we have heard the Israeli positions for 19 years and now the issue is over, and we know this.” He added that the Americans were well aware that “they cannot combat radical [Islamist] ideology without ending this conflict.”
Erekat also called on the US to put forward other solutions after direct negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis stalled, including the possibility of announcing a Palestinian state at the UN. However Washington is clear in its rejection of this possibility, and has said that it will use its Security Council veto in the event of this being put forward at the UN General Assembly.
Erekat also revealed that the major mistake made by the Palestinians since the beginning of negotiating with Israel – since the Oslo Accords in 1993 – was recognizing Israel without defining its borders. He said “the problem was recognizing Israel without borders…at the time the US officials insisted that the ticket to enter negotiations was based upon recognizing the state of Israel, without defining its borders, and that has been the problem since the beginning.”