'If PA fails, darkness and ISIS will come', says Erekat

'Israel wants safe peace, not another Gaza', Minister Shalom

11 December, 16:03

    Chief Palestinian Negotiator and Secretary General, PLO, Saeb Erekat, at Med Rome 2015 Chief Palestinian Negotiator and Secretary General, PLO, Saeb Erekat, at Med Rome 2015

    (by Elisa Pinna) - ROME - Chief Palestinian negotiator Saed Erekat said Friday at the Med Forum in the Italian capital that Israel has pushed the current moderate leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the verge of collapse and total delegitimization. Erekat, who is also the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) secretary, added that he saw a ''dark future'' if the international community does not force Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu into an agreement foreseeing a two-state solution along the 1967 borders. ''We have recognized Israel and promised our population that this would have led to a Palestinian state. However, Israel continues to not want to recognize us and we are living in a regime of occupation and apartheid.'' ''If the PA is weakened further by Israel's attitude, the Islamic State (ISIS) will arrive in the Palestinian Territories and the conflict - which up until now has been kept at the political level - will become religious: between a Jewish state and an Islamic one,'' Erekat warned. ''It will be the abyss.'' Head Israeli negotiator Silvan Shalom - current deputy prime minister and interior minister - was in the same hall of the conference on the future of the Mediterranean organized by the Italian government. The Palestinian and the Israeli negotiators - given the problematic relations between the two following a failed mediation attempt by US Secretary of State John Kerry - took turns on the stage and will neither debate nor sit facing one another. In his speech, Shalom said that Erekat and PA president Mahmoud Abbas are ''excellent people'', but asked who would ensure Israel that their successors would abide by any peace agreements. The concern, he said, is that a similar situation as to what happened in Gaza will transpire, when Israeli settlers were pulled out and the Gaza Strip ''was supposed to become a sort of Principality of Monaco'' and instead ''was taken over by a coup d'etat by Hamas'', becoming a base for launching missiles at Israel. Shalom said that Hamas, ''a component of Palestinian politics, is no different from ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah'', all of which are ''terrorist groups that surround Israel and that aim to destroy it.'' ''If we reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians,'' Shalom said, ''we want it to last forever. But how can it last if the PA itself continues to pay salaries to terrorists from the First and Second Intifadas in Israeli jails, and if Palestinian children'', citing a recent Palestinian television program's investigation, ''dream of becoming engineers to invent something that destroys Jews?''. The minister then reiterated Israel's willingness to collaborate with Palestinians and suggested setting up a committee tasked with rebuilding confidence between the two populations ahead of a possible resumption of peace talks. Palestinian negotiator Erekat noted his concerns about the timeline, however, saying that ''one can no longer speak about what is 'possible'. One must speak about what is 'necessary'.

    And a two-state agreement on the basis of the 1967 borders is necessary''. Otherwise, he warned, ''bloodshed will be on the way'' and ''we may all end up in darkness''. 

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