In an exclusive interview with TPS, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Trump and his appointees of pushing Israeli politicians to the right.
By Baruch Yedid, TPS
“In comparison with David Friedman, the U.S.’ Ambassador in Israel, [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is far left-wing. The U.S. administration is pulling Israel to the right and we will not be able to renew the negotiations,” Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) chief negotiator with Israel, told TPS in an exclusive interview.
While the PA is facing looming economic failure, the U.S. recently sponsored the Peace to Prosperity economic workshop held in Manama, Bahrain, a step toward unveiling the Trump administration’s comprehensive peace plan for the Middle East.
Erekat sharply criticized the Trump administration and charged that “the political situation in Israel has completely changed and today David Friedman dictates the most right-wing stances in Israel. Compared with him, Netanyahu is left-wing.”
The ties between Ramallah and Washington have been frozen since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem.
Erekat maintained that “the PA will not be able to maintain contact with the U.S. administration as long as Friedman retains his position.” Erekat added that the same goes for Jason Greenblatt, the U.S.’ special representative for international negotiations, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior aide.
“How can we talk with anyone who thinks God gave Jerusalem to the Jews?” Erekat asked.
Friedman, Greenblatt, and Kushner are all Jews.
Erekat further assailed Trump’s Deal of the Century, his yet-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East, and said that the U.S. misunderstands the conflict as a dispute over real estate, or an issue relating to religious convictions or interpretation of archeological findings.
“As long as Friedman and Greenblatt retain extreme views, how can Netanyahu talk with us about a diplomatic solution to the refugee issue?” asked Erekat.
As far as the PA’s diplomatic strategy, Erekat says that he has advised PA head Mahmoud Abbas to “pursue a two-state solution while surviving the current U.S. administration and talking with any Israeli element,” even though he conceded that he is not sure if the PA will be able to survive the coming months and the prolonged elections period in Israel.
The lack of a government in Israel does not make a diplomatic breakthrough possible, he believes.
While a diplomatic solution does not seem viable at this time, the security coordination with Israel continues, as the PA “is part of a group of countries that have signed a treaty to fight terrorism, and therefore the coordination continues,” he claimed.
Like other officials in the PA, Erekat differentiates between seemingly hostile U.S. diplomatic elements and U.S. security elements, whom he says show understanding and support. He also confirmed that various elements have come to the conclusion that the PA is on the verge of collapsing and are therefore seeking ways to help it.
TPS previously reported that U.S. security officials met last week with PA security officials for two days in Rawabi, near Ramallah, at the end of which PA Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtayyeh was invited to meet the group.
Responding to TPS’ question, Erekat confirmed that the meeting took place.
“The American cut in its support to hospitals, UNRWA, and the PA, in general, has created a vacuum,” the senior official noted, warning that the void would be filled by extreme elements “and it will explode in Friedman’s face.”