Palestinian envoy: Israeli settlement a red line with 'grave consequences'

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s top diplomat in the United States says that Israel's plans for a settlement in a sensitive area is a ploy to undermine a future Palestinian state.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Maen Rashid Areikat, chief representative of the general delegation of the PLO to the United States, speaks to reporters in Washington Friday.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s top diplomat in the United States says that if Israel goes ahead with plans for a settlement in a hypersensitive strip of occupied land east of Jerusalem it would be a “red line” that would signal there was “no hope” for a future Palestinian state and would have “grave consequences.”

Maen Rashid Areikat, chief representative of the general delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United States, made the comments Friday at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters.   

Israel announced Nov. 30 it would go ahead with planning and permitting for a settlement in the West Bank in an area known as E1. It is a plot of land between Ramallah to the north and Bethlehem to the south and also connects Jerusalem to a suburb that is home to 40,000 Israelis.

An E1 settlement would hinder Palestinian access to East Jerusalem and divide the West Bank. All that would connect the northern and southern portions of the West Bank would be a corridor about 10 miles wide, bisected by an Israeli-controlled road.

Word of Israel’s plans for E1 came the day after the United Nations voted to upgrade the Palestinians to non-member observer status. At a Monitor-hosted lunch on Tuesday, Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said the announcement was intended “to send a calibrated message that we could also take unilateral measures.” Israel viewed the Palestinians seeking observer status as a unilateral action.

“E1 is a red line,” said the PLO's Mr. Areikat. “And if Israel embarks on that, it will be sending not a clear signal but a final signal to us that there will be no Palestinian state.” He added that, “Everybody knows that the objective is not to build a settlement here, the objective is to destroy the possibility of a two-state solution" by cutting off parts of a future Palestinian state.   

When he was asked to define red line, Areikat said, “A red line is some line that if Israelis cross it again it means that there is no hope that there will be a future Palestinian state. And therefore it will have some grave consequences.”

The PLO official was quick to caution that the “grave consequences” he predicted would not involve armed struggle. “Under no circumstances would the PLO or the current leadership advocate violent or armed struggle. Period. This is not an option,” Areikat said.

As for what action the Palestinians could take if Israel moved ahead with the E1 settlement, Areikat said, “we are going to resort to whatever venues [are] available to us in order to make sure that Israel does not kill our dream, kill our hope, and keep us under their military occupation for ever. We will resort to whatever venue is available to us, peaceful, legal, political diplomatic, what have you.”

While the PLO is pledges not to resort to violence, Israeli Ambassador Oren noted Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank “has moved toward reconciliation, rapprochement with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.” Oren said that “Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction…. So the rapprochement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas cannot in any way be construed as a productive move toward peace.”

On Thursday, Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, was allowed to hold a rally in the West Bank for the first time in five years. The move was seen as one sign of a thaw between Hamas and Fatah, the faction which dominates the Palestinian Authority.

When asked about Oren’s statement, Palestinian envoy Areikat said, “any future reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas must be based on a common denominator. And the PLO has clearly stated in the past that we are not planning to move towards Hamas’s position when it comes to how we need to resolve the conflict” with Israel.

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