Right forces’ influence in Israel hinders peace process: chief Palestinian negotiator with Israel

Azerbaijan, Baku, March 29 / Trend , U.Sadigova/

Chief Palestinian Negotiator with Israel Saeb Erikat's interview with Trend Middle East Desk.

Question: Right-wing parties of Israel, which came out against the withdrawal of troops from the Gaza strip in January, are probable to come to power: Could it cause new political disputes between the Palestinian authorities and Israel?

Answer: Israeli elections are an internal matter for Israel, while any new Israeli government will be judged first and foremost according to the actions its takes. The ascendancy of the far-right in Israel, and the likelihood of an unstable, right-wing coalition government being formed, obviously poses significant challenges when it comes to making peace. Whatever the final makeup of Israel's new government, reinvigorating the peace process will rest on two factors.   

Firstly, the new Israeli government needs to implement all of its obligations under the Roadmap. This includes an immediate and complete freeze on all settlement activity; restoring normal movement and access for Palestinians both in and out of, and within the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and lifting the siege on Gaza that has created an Israeli-made humanitarian crisis. Secondly, the new Israeli government must unequivocally affirm its support for the two-state solution and the establishment of a viable, independent and fully sovereign Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, and it must commit to past agreements between Israel and the PLO. Without this, there is no partner [for Palestinians] for peace.

The international community must be heavily invested in peace making through implementing a credible enforcement mechanism designed to hold both parties accountable for their respective obligations under previous agreements.

Q: Iran has submitted its peace plan to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Could Iran play an active role in the solution of this long-lasted conflict in the Middle East given the close ties between Tehran and HAMAS?

A: Iran is one of the 57 Arab and Islamic states [the Organisation of the Islamic Conference members] to have endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative. This initiative offers a unique opportunity to move the peace process forward, offering Israel full normalization of relations [with Arab countries] in return for an end to Israel's occupation of Arab lands and a just and agreed upon solution for refugees. It is an opportunity that Israel has so far squandered. 

Q: Europe and Turkey believe HAMAS participation in peace talks with Israel to better the peace process. How could the cooperation between HAMAS and FATAH affect the negotiations?

A: Palestinian unity is fundamental to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, while disunity only undermines our resistance to Israel's occupation. Current national reconciliation talks [between FATAH and HAMAS] in Cairo are a positive step forward towards reconciliation. It is important to stress that this is essentially an internal matter (Palestinian National Administration), and it in no way provides an excuse for Israel to ignore and continue to violate its obligations under previous agreements. What threatens peace is 42-years of Israeli occupation, not the two-year-old Palestinian internal rift.

Q: Egypt acts as a permanent mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, whilst Cairo agrees only to cooperate with the Palestinian government. Is there any need to inject changes to Cairo's mediation to promote the peace process?

A: Promoting and reinvigorating the peace process rests on Israel substantially changing its behavior and reversing its policies on the ground. The Palestinian leadership represented by President Mahmoud Abbas welcomes and highly appreciates the role Egypt continues to play in hosting Palestinian reconciliation talks, and in its support for Palestinian statehood and an end to Israel's occupation.     

Q: One of demands in the talks on establishment of national government of Palestine remains reforming the political structure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). What changes does the PLO need? Will these reforms affect the relations between Palestinian governing party FATAH and different political organizations?

A: Since its inception in 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization has served as the umbrella organization representing all Palestinians, both in the occupied Palestinian territory and in the Palestinian diaspora, in their just struggle for self determination and independence.

There is common agreement that reforms are needed within the PLO that reflect the challenges we face today given Israel's refusal to end its occupation. These reforms need to lead to the revival of the different institutions of the PLO, and to ensure that this organization represents all Palestinians regardless of their political affiliations. The legitimacy of the PLO should not be challenged and it should continue to be the sole and legitimate body that represents the Palestinian people.

Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at [email protected]

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