Interview: Saeb Erakat, Palestinian Chief Negotiator, calls upon Europe, Russia, China to help achieve a two-state solution.
Saeb Erakat, Palestinian Chief Negotiator & PLO Secretary General, was among our distinguished speakers at the 2018 MEDays Forum. In this interview for the MEDays Blog, he shares with us his thoughts about US unilateralism and its position regarding the peace process, the new partners to involve to ensure balanced negotiations and the debate over the two-states vs. one state solution.
To Saeb Erakat, President Trump cannot be considered a credible partner for peace and he’s unable to resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of his biased position in line with Benyamin Netanyahu. Read the full interview and watch the video below :
How is US policy – including the Jerusalem issue – impacting the chances to revive the process peace? In your opinion, is Trump’s unilateralism weakening or strengthening US power worldwide?
What brings me to MEDays 2018 is the topic I will be addressing, President Trump, is he a peacemaker or a peace breaker. As Palestinians, we have been suffering a lot from the decisions of President Trump. We’ve seen US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, then moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, then closing the PLO office in Washington, then cancelling the American consulate in East Jerusalem that was established in 1844 for Palestinians. Then, we’ve seen the cut of 844 millions of aid including 330 millions dollars for the UNRWA, also the recognition of Israeli settlements, dictations and war crimes. So as far we are concerned, we think President Trump has disqualified himself from any role in the peace process. I am aware the US is a member of the Security Council, a super power that can destroy the earth 300 times over, but as far as we are concerned as Palestinians, they are not a partner, they cannot be a partner, they have totally sided with Benyamin Netanyahu, they are trying to dictate on us a solution, which will fail that’s number one, this will lead to chaos and extremism among Palestinians and in the area.
We think President Trump has disqualified himself from any role in the peace process. I am aware the US is a member of the Security Council, a super power that can destroy the earth 300 times over, but as far as we are concerned as Palestinians, they are not a partner.
We’ve also seen him cancelling the Iran deal, pulling out of NAFTA with Mexico and Canada, we’ve seen him out of the Environmental Paris Protocol and now he’s going to be out of ICBM agreement with the Russians, and he’s out of major trade agreements worldwide. So where is this man heading, taking this world? Is this a new world order based on chaos, lawlessness, the undermining of the rule of law? Humankind has been through 6000 years in developing conflict resolution by peaceful means. And this American administration is coming to destroy all of this. He’s actually telling young Palestinians in my neighborhood, if you claim something, don’t wait for negotiations, just go and grab it. That’s very bad! There are 194 nations in this universe; there is not a single nation without a problem in its social and geographic fabric. I don’t think that the Spanish would like to wake up one morning to find that Trump had recognized Barcelona as the capital of the Republic of Catalonia. I don’t think that the British would like to see Northern Ireland back to Ireland. (…)
President Trump is actually telling young Palestinians in my neighborhood, if you claim something, don’t wait for negotiations, just go and grab it. That’s very bad!
That’s the chaos and lawlessness that we need as Arabs to stand up for now. As Arabs we have 19 major conflicts out of the 22 countries within and between Arab countries. How can we face these challenges of Trump under such circumstances? That’s why the first sign of hope I saw came from His Majesty the King of Morocco in a speech I heard back in Palestine asking a dialogue with Algeria. That’s a strategic initiative that we should cease, yes Morocco would benefit, Algeria would benefit but believe me those who will benefit even more from dealing with these Arabs differences are the Palestinians because the focus will now be on the Palestinian questions.
I think MEDays is one of the most important international conferences with very diversified attendees from the five continents, and it gives us a chance to introduce our position, our opinion, to explain, to clarify, and to speak with all the decision-makers and intellectuals worldwide.
I appreciate very much the fact that I am at the MEDays Forum, it gives me a great chance as a Palestinian to speak to the world, I think this is one of the most important international conferences with very diversified attendees from the five continents, and it gives us a chance to introduce our position, our opinion, to explain, to clarify, and to speak with all the decision-makers and intellectuals worldwide. And we’re here. This month, I was in the Jordan International Security Conference, I will be next week in Berlin for the Foreign Policy Forum, I will be in the US for the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, I will be in Qatar for the Doha Forum next month, and in Cambridge University. But MEDays is different in terms of the diversification that you encounter; you can sit with the President of an African Nation, then go speak with the Americans, Europeans, Japanese, and Latins. And I appreciate very much that Palestine is given a chance by MEDays organizers to take part and I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my friend Brahim Fassi Fihri for inviting me and give four lectures in these sessions.
Since the US cannot right now be a viable partner to pursue negotiations, do you think new powers in the South can help, which ones, and how?
What Abou Mazen my President did on February 20th 2018, he went to the Security Council, and introduced a vision, an initiative convening an international conference with the participation of all permanent Security Council members.
We cannot exclude the US but we cannot have the US alone. (…) Europe must lead, for a simple reason, its geographical position.
We cannot exclude the US but we cannot have the US alone. We don’t seat with the US alone, we are not excluding he US power as a superpower and security council members, as an economic power, we are focusing on political geography. Europe must lead, for a simple reason, its geographical position. (…) The second geographical location after us as Arabs at the hands of those thugs and murderers called ISIS is Europe. For their interests and our interests, I think they should lead to lead in the back of convening an international conference where Israelis and Palestinians will be back together to achieve a permanent status solution, on all core issues Jerusalem, borders, settlements, refugees leading to the establishing of a two-state solutions, the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital to live side by side in peace and security with the state of Israel on the 1967 lines.
At the end of the day, it will be the Israelis and Palestinians who will negotiate, who will have to make decisions required to make peace.
I believe Europe can play this vital role. Russia is there, China as well. Japan is interested to be with us. Canada, the main ally o the US, wrote us a letter they will not move their embassy to Jerusalem. I believe we can do it. At the end of the day, it will be the Israelis and Palestinians who will negotiate, who will have to make decisions required to make peace. Once again, unfortunately President Trump administration is lead by political and religious ideologues like Friedman (…) who believe that they can dictate a solution, destroy the two-states solution and replacing it with one state two systems, apartheid. It will not work, it’s not doable, it’s not sustainable, it’s going to fail, (…) there will be a vacuum and there will be blood.
The occupation’s expansion is reducing the chances to achieve a two-states solution. Is a one-state solution a disruptive idea that could happen in the mid-term period?
Well, we began as a Palestine Liberation Organization in the 60s last century, calling a for a secular democratic state where Jews, Muslims and Christians can live as equals one person one vote. Then in 1974, the Americans under Henry Kissinger Secretary of State at that time, introduced conditions on us that we must accept resolution 242 and 338 of the Security Council, recognize Israel, renounce violence, accept negotiations, so two states.
I know that there are many Palestinians, who are asking me to change (…) and telling me it should be « one state equal rights » (…) But this will not be doable as far as Israelis are concerned, they will never accept it.
Now Netanyahu and Trump are saying us “One state” or “Two states” does not matter. Personally speaking, I think the only option is a two-state solution, to live and let live because Netanyahu and Trump’s option of ‘one state two systems apartheid’ is not doable. And I know that there are many Palestinians, who are asking me to change, and stop speaking even and telling me it should be “one state equal rights” which is a very civilized concept, one state where Jews, Muslims and Christians can live together as equals. But this will not be doable as far as Israelis are concerned, they will never accept it.
We call upon Europe, Russia, China, Japan, the Arab countries, Latin America, the African Union (…) to bring the five security council members to an international conference so Palestinians and Israelis can re-engage and try to achieve a two-states solution.
So in the absence of a two state solution and the undoability of a ‘one state equal rights’, there will be blood. That’s why we call upon Europe, Russia, China, Japan, the Arab countries, Latin America, the African Union, the non-aligned movement, the Islamic countries, the whole world together, to bring the five security council members to an international conference so Palestinians and Israelis can re-engage and try to achieve a two-states solution on the 1967 lines which in my opinion is the only solution.