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Dec 25, 2019
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Saeb Erekat, Sec.-Gen. of PLO Executive Committee: The ICC Investigation of Israeli War Crimes Is Comparable to Neil Armstrong’s First Steps on the Moon; Arab Leaders Who Normalize Relations with Israel Are Shamelessly Stabbing Us in the Back

#7678 | 08:42
Source: Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar)

Saeb Erekat, the Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee, said in a December 25, 2019 interview on Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar) that the steps being taken by the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes can be compared to the “giant leap for mankind” taken by Neil Armstrong when he first set foot on the Moon. He said that the legal proceedings are meant to bring about an end to Israeli injustice, occupation, and war crimes, and that there is no circumstance under which Palestinians could be labeled as terrorists since they have only acted in self-defense against Israel. In addition, Erekat said that Arab leaders who normalize relations with Israel, including those who have sent Hanukkah blessings to Israel, are shamelessly stabbing the Palestinian people in the back, and he emphasized that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is political and territorial rather than religious. Furthermore, Erekat said that 2019 was “the year of Palestine” because no Israeli official managed to speak a full lecture in any American or European university and because U.S. President Donald Trump’s extremism has “served the Palestinian cause” since his actions are made null and void by Congress. Claiming that Israel has undergone three election cycles in the past year purely because of the Palestinians, Erekat added: “Whoever wants to defeat extremism and terrorism in the region must start by draining the swamp of Israeli occupation… In our lifetimes, we will see an independent State of Palestine [with] East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Saeb Erekat: I believe that the recent steps [against Israel by the ICC] can be compared to the step made by Neil Armstrong when he set foot on the Moon for the first time in in 1969…

Interviewer: Wow…

Saeb Erekat: He said: “This is one small step [for man], one giant leap for mankind.” I don’t want to exaggerate in this regard, but the inability to achieve peace all these years – and we’re at the end of 2019 – has stemmed from the lack of accountability of the Israeli occupation.

[…]

In my view, this measure will not be the last, and things will not remain as they were in the past.

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This is not about revenge. The idea behind the ICC [measures] is not revenge. It is meant to end the injustice, the violations, the occupation, the aggression, and the war crimes that are being committed without any accountability.

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Interviewer: Let’s not forget that the ICC will also investigate what it describes as “Palestinian crimes,” just so we can complete our discussion of this…

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Saeb Erekat: First of all, we are a people under occupation. The U.S. and Israel have tried to label Hamas a terrorist movement. Let’s talk honestly. They mustered all their power at the United Nations General Assembly, but President Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO, with all its factions, opposed this resolution, and we were victorious. Israel can file complaints. It filed one with the ICC against President Abbas. We have the ability to defend ourselves. We are a people under occupation, and we cannot, under any circumstances, be labeled terrorists.

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I cannot guard anybody’s lips. Can I prevent any Arab decision-maker from going on his national TV network and declaring that he wants to normalize relations with Israel, and that he agrees that Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque are the capital of the State of Israel?

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To normalize relations [with Israel] is to stab the Palestinians in the back. It is to lose one’s sense of shame. A shameless person does not stop what he’s doing when the Palestinians get upset. We, the PLO, recognized Israel. We strive for peace. We want peace, based on international law and the international legitimacy [of the U.N. resolutions].

[…]

Interviewer: But you don’t think that the chances for peace have diminished with this Arab-Israeli rapprochement? We have started openly congratulating Israel on the holiday of Hanukkah, and Israel is proud of this. It declares this out in the open.

[…]

Saeb Erekat: First of all, Judaism is not our enemy. We are not fighting Israel because of something written in the Torah. Our conflict is not a religious conflict. This is a political conflict about land, and against the settlements the state-sponsored terrorism, and the occupation. As Arabs, Muslims, and Christians, we are not against Judaism.

Interviewer: So you have no problem with an Arab country –and its leaders, officials, or embassies – congratulating Israel on Hanukkah? Is this normal in your eyes?

Saeb Erekat: I’m not saying that they should congratulate the Israeli officials, but if there are Jews in Egypt or in Yemen…

Interviewer: Hold on a moment… Let’s call a spade a spade. I’m not trying to fish in troubled waters, but let’s call a spade a spade. Tell me who… It was announced today that the UAE embassies in several cities congratulated Israel on Hanukkah. Is this normal?

[…]

Saeb Erekat: All I am saying is that this is not a religious issue. It is purely a political issue.

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Mark my words. If Trump is re-elected, his second term will be the changing of the Arab regimes, because a person whose basic principle is that countries should be strong or find strong countries to protect them will never have enough, no matter how much these countries pay…

[…]

Interviewer: Is it that you don’t see any Arab-Israeli rapprochement, or is that you simply do not view it as a problem?

Saeb Erekat: No, I said that to normalize relations [with Israel] is to stab the Palestinians in the back and to sanction the spilling of Palestinian blood. We will not accept any change to the Arab peace initiative. The Arab peace initiative states that Israel must withdraw from all the occupied Arab lands – including East Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights – and that the refugee issue must be resolved on the basis of Resolution 194. [Only then] will we start normalizing relations. Netanyahu wants to turn the tables, but we say “No” to this a thousand times.

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As I’ve told you, 2019 was the year of Palestine. No Israeli official managed to complete a single lecture in any American university, nor in any European university. Most European parliaments voted in favor of recognizing the State of Palestine.

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Interviewer: Why was 2019 like that?

Saeb Erekat: Because of the dangers posed by the Trump administration. In Spain, for example, they don’t want to find one day that Barcelona has become the capital of the Catalan Republic simply because Trump got the right price. He has 40 million Irish voters in America. His main ally, Boris Johnson, does not want to find one day that Northern Ireland has joined Ireland… Countries are slaves to their interests…

[…]

Interviewer: So ultimately, Trump’s extremism has served the Palestinian cause?

Saeb Erekat: Yes!

[…]

Interviewer: Honestly, what Trump has done for Israel cannot even be described. Moving the embassy [to Jerusalem], cutting U.S. support for UNRWA, the Secretary of State’s declaration that the settlements are legal… I want to make sure I don’t forget anything… He equipped Israel with more F-35 planes, gave Israel the green light to annex the Golan Heights, and I don’t know what else… What else can he do? How can the elections affect the [Palestinian] cause?

Saeb Erekat: He wanted to implement the deal of the previous century, not the deal of the current century. The deal of the previous century consists of the Balfour Declaration, which called to establish a national home for the Jews, while protecting the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish minorities in Palestine. This is what Trump has done with the support of the Anglican Church and Netanyahu, thinking that these measures would bring us to our knees. But we did not kneel and we remained steadfast, as we will in the future. The most important response to President Trump – even though he was rejected by the whole world – came from the U.S. Congress, on December 6, 2019. For the first time since 1948, the U.S. Congress voted – 226 against 188 – to confirm its support of the two-state solution, to confirm its support of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, and to confirm its objection to the settlements and the annexation. This was the greatest slap to Trump, who was impeached by the same Congress a few days ago. So if Trump is re-elected, what can he possibly do? All his measures are null and void. They do not give [Israel] any rights, and they are not binding. This is why the ICC issue is happening now.

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Why is Israel going through three elections in 11 months? Are there any disputes about the economy? No. About social issues? No. About education? No. About religion? No. We are the reason. The Palestinians are the reason. Okay, they are an occupation force with 300 tanks, 1,800 airplanes, nuclear weapons, the support of the Congress, and so on – but what will they do about us? There is no solution other than ending the occupation, and establishing a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital, if they really want security, peace, and stability in the region. You cannot kill ideas with bullets, occupation, and settlements. Nobody can prevent ideas from spreading. Whoever wants to defeat extremism and terrorism in this region must start by draining the swamp of Israeli occupation.

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In the 26 years that have passed since 1993, 600,000 Palestinians have returned from the east to the West [Bank and Gaza]. We are here to stay. We will remain here, and we will see, in our lifetimes, an independent State of Palestine, with full sovereignty over the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

[…]

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