By Saeb Erekat
In his article entitled ‘Till September: The PA’s Meaningless Deadlines’, dated February 26, Ramzy Baroud fails to present the real picture of the Palestinian situation today.
Characterizing the Palestinian leadership as a ‘‘self designated Palestinian leadership in the West Bank’’, Mr. Baroud wittingly ignores some facts while distorts others. In fact, it was Hamas that has refused until this day to sign the Egyptian brokered reconciliation agreement.
The so called “Palestine papers” have not revealed a single official agreement or document that offers concessions. Rather the majority of the documents were internal draft summaries of meetings taken in shorthand and intended for personal use only.
Moreover, Baroud’s failure to differentiate between official positions and explorations or polemical rhetoric during the course of negotiations shows a lack of knowledge or a deliberate distortion.
A responsible and careful reading of the minutes and official Palestinian positions reveals that Palestinian negotiators were insistent on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
The issues discussed were mechanisms by which Palestinian rights would be realized, rather than forfeited as claimed. For example, the Palestinian position on territory never deviated from the 1967 borders and illegality of settlements. However, there was a willingness to discuss Israeli and U.S proposals for land swaps, only if equal in size and value, as a possible way to establish the 1967 lines as a base line for borders given the complicated reality on the ground created by Israel’s illegal colonial policies.
Similarly, with regards to the right of return: The Palestinian position emphasized Israel’s responsibility for the creation and perpetuation of Palestinian refugehood and demanded Israeli recognition of responsibility and the right of return, the latter being an individual right that cannot be negotiated away.
That was the point of departure for the Palestinian position which sought to negotiate a mechanism for the implementation of the right of return as well as the empowerment and respect for the decision of each Palestinian refugee.
As for my resignation, it was not a cynical attempt to shift attention or retain credibility as claimed by Baroud. No one in the leadership ever shied from a serious open discussion on any of the issues. Rather, the resignation was the natural course of action for any official who holds dear the values of accountability and personal responsibility.
If I did not resign, Mr. Baroud would vehemently attack the lack of accountability in the Palestinian system.
Lastly, the author wrongly characterizes the call for elections as a tactical move on the part of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The call came after numerous failures of reconciliation attempts as a way to move past the deadlock and overcome the crippling political divide by returning to the source of authority, the Palestinian people.
The PA elections, however, are not a substitute for self-determination or for the end of the occupation. Currently, the dismantlement of the PA is under consideration because the PA is not and has never been an end in and of itself, but rather a milestone on the road to independence.
– Dr. Saeb Erekat is a member of PLO Executive Committee.