Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat- As angry demonstrators in the West Bank town of Ramallah branded US President George W. Bush a “war criminal” on Thursday, The Palestinian Authority [PA] strongly rejected US President George Bush’s statements on arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in which he committed himself to backing the jewishness of the Israeli state.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told Asharq al-Awsat one day before the US President’s arrival in Ramallah to meet Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin) that “Bush’s statements are rejected in whole and parcel. They express his personal view and are not binding on the Palestinians.” He added that “Bush is not the Palestinian president and not the one negotiating with the Israelis. We cannot stand guard on his lips and he knows the PA’s stand on this issue very well. Abu-Mazin told him that personally.”
Erakat stressed that the PLO is the party authorized to negotiate with the Israelis and taking stands and asserted that the PA recognizes Israel as Israel only, adding that “more than 20 percent of its population are not Israelis but Palestinian Arabs.” He admitted that American interests basically determine the US President’s visit to the region but does not see in it “an awakening of conscience” as some are trying to say. He downplayed the expected results from this visit in terms of making fundamental progress and said: “He did not come to negotiate. No negotiations during his presence, no satisfactory answers, and expectations are not high.”
The Palestinian negotiator stressed that the “PA will forcefully demand from Bush to activate the tripartite mechanism for ensuring implementation of the roadmap as agreed on at the Annapolis conference.” He added that “this mechanism has not been activated so far and the United States must play the arbiter’s role. We will tell them (the Americans) about the need to fulfill their obligations.” He reiterated that the “Israeli attacks and settlements are absolutely impossible to proceed side by side with the negotiations” and asserted that the PA is working to make 2008 the year of establishing the state and ensuring completion of all the pending issues (Jerusalem, the borders, the settlements, the refugees, the water, and ending the occupation)”, which means according to him “complete withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem.”
At a time of much argument about the ability of three weak leaders (Bush, Olmert, and Abu-Mazin) to reach an agreement that ends the conflict this year, Urayqat said that “the US President alone is capable. He is capable of stopping the Israeli attacks and settlements, compelling Israel to withdraw, and establishing the Palestinian state.”
The “jewishness” of Israel caused the argument and disrupted the progress of the already stalled Palestinian-Israeli negotiations before the Annapolis conference. The PA and many Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt refuse to accept the “jewishness” of Israel.