London, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Palestinian Authority [PA] has rejected the proposal for a final settlement that was leaked by Israel and which excludes the Jerusalem and refugees issues saying it is inconsistent with the Palestinian, Arab, and international legitimacy.
Saeb Erekat, head of the PLO’s negotiations department, said part of what Israel leaked yesterday was baseless and the second half was half truths. He added in statements to Asharq Al-Awsat that the aim behind these leaks from high levels in Israel “is to plant the seed of blame, like they did with us at the Camp David in 2000.”
Erekat sees great danger in such a leak because of the agreement during the negotiations that no details would be made public. He added that the aim from leaking this information about offering 98 percent plus a safe corridor in return for 7 percent is to blame the Palestinian side since the Israeli Government realizes that it is incapable of reaching an agreement because of its internal problems. In other words, the Israelis are saying through this leak that they did what they should do and it is the Palestinian side which rejected. This cost us a very heavy price in the 2000 negotiations and we should not allow it in 2008.
Erekat added angrily that, “In the end, we are not in an auction, a market, or a bazaar. We will not barter our right for another of our rights. We will not barter Jerusalem for the refugees, or the refugees for the security issue, or the security for the borders issue. All these are our rights. It is for their sake that we entered the peace process on the basis of international law, of Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 borders, of establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and solving the final issues, including that of the refugees, in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy. These are the bases on which we entered into the peace process.”
The Palestinian negotiator went on to say that many people are talking about 15 years of negotiations wasted without achieving anything “and to them I say that it was possible to reach an agreement during the first months of 1994 but on Israel’s conditions. I mean by this that I do not want time to be a sword hanging over our necks pushing us into accepting all the Israeli conditions.”
On linking what they want to hand back from the West Bank to the PA after retrieving the Gaza Strip from the Hamas movement, Erekat told Asharq Al-Awsat, “This is an Israeli attempt to exploit the internal Palestinian situations. We have a wound called the Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip and he (Olmert) is holding this wound and using it as a sword against us. Yes, we know there is a Palestinian wound but will not let it be exploited to blackmail us and fight our constants. If Hamas acted stupidly then I will not let Israel get the price for this stupidity.”
Regarding the issue of exchanging territories, Erekat, stated that, “There is a misunderstanding. We have no objection to exchanging territories that are equal in value and fungibles but the exchange on this basis is done after Israel’s recognition of the 1967 borders and then there can be talk about exchanging territories in accordance with the two concerned countries’ interests. This is possible between neighboring countries and it happened between Iraq and Jordan, Ecuador and Peru, and so on. In other words, it does not have the right to talk about appropriating 7 percent before withdrawal. This is unacceptable.”
He added, “This is our position and we explained it in our official response and conveyed it to the Americans and Europeans. We told the Israelis your leak today is absolutely impermissible and inappropriate because it is half truths. They rely in their leaks on the idea that the Arabs derive their information from the Israeli media.”
He stressed that the PA and its President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin) did not receive the Israeli proposal in writing as “Ha’aretz” newspaper claimed and asserted there are discussions in depth and on several levels in the negotiations and said, “We heard some of what was reported and they were raised in the negotiations. But the issue of postponing the Jerusalem issue was not raised at all and was not discussed.”