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Erekat: EU’s Double Standard on Annexation Must Stop
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left) hosts German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas during a previous visit to Jerusalem in March 2018. (Kobi Gideon/Government Press Office)

Erekat: EU’s Double Standard on Annexation Must Stop

The senior Palestinian negotiator tells The Media Line he is deeply disappointed after German FM’s visit to the region

A furious, frustrated and disappointed Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, rebuked German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in scathing terms in an exclusive interview with The Media Line. The Palestinian diplomat criticized Maas, who met Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday, for not also visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and not taking a stronger public position on Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

Erekat also said that Europe should apologize for its double standards on annexation in a hint to the sanctions the EU has applied against Russia for annexing Crimea.

Erekat insisted that the Palestinians view Germany as a “partner, a country that we count on, and has full partnership with us. And the EU is one of our closest partners,” but he added that the visit didn’t do much for the Palestinians.

“I was expecting Mr. Maas to stand tall and say to the Israelis in the press conference, ‘If you do the annexation, there will be consequences, there will be sanctions, this is against international law.’ And there are precedents where Germany took actions against other nations when they annexed other territory,” Erekat said.

Erekat accused Germany of treating Israel differently.

“This double standard must stop and I was really surprised that Mr. Maas did not say to the Israelis publicly that if your leaders carry out annexation in any form, size or shape, there will be consequences that will affect Israel’s international standing and its relations with Germany and other countries in Europe and the region.”

He argued that Europe and the international community should have one goal in mind.

“We need to prevent annexation. Preventing annexation means there is a chance for Palestinians and Israelis to go on the path of making peace.”

But, Erekat argued, annexation would be disastrous.

“To annex one centimeter or 100% of the West Bank is the same. … If annexation takes place, in any form or shape or size, it’s over. It is over. There will never be a negotiated settlement between Palestinians and Israelis or between Arabs and Israelis.”

Erekat stressed that annexation would lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, leaving Israel “fully responsible to pay salaries, to collect garbage, to be in charge of everything, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. … Netanyahu and [US President Donald] Trump are trying to change the role and function of the Palestinian Authority to become an instrument to institutionalize occupation, annexation, and apartheid. He [Netanyahu] wants one state, two systems. Apartheid.”

In withering criticism of Maas, Erekat said that “some dignitaries” come to Israel and remain shamefully silent about the threat that annexation would result in an apartheid-like situation. They “don’t even mention the consequences of actions that should be taken by the civilized international community. And yes, I mean the German foreign minister.”

After his visit to Israel, Maas flew to Jordan on Wednesday, where he communicated Berlin’s views on the issue, saying it was a priority to prevent Israel’s planned annexation.

While in Amman, he had a virtual meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

Israeli annexation forms part of the Trump Administration peace plan, the so-called deal of the century, unveiled in January, which also paves the way for the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu has vowed to swiftly and unilaterally extend Israeli sovereignty to some 30% of the West Bank in accordance with Trump’s deal. But the Israeli prime minister’s plan drew massive international condemnation.

Erekat repeatedly warned against Israel’s annexation plan, saying that if Israel goes through with it, it will “destroy” any future possibility of establishing a Palestinian state.

On Tuesday, Shtayyeh said the PA would declare an independent, demilitarized state in the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, with parts of Jerusalem as its capital, if Israel went forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

This would mean the transition from “a temporary authority” to “the imposition of a state on the ground, and Palestine will be a state along the pre-1967 borders and its capital will be east Jerusalem,” the Palestinian prime minister he told members of the foreign press in Ramallah.

Netanyahu has said annexation could start as early as July 1. If so, Shtayyeh said, the PA would make a “constitutional announcement” and establish a “constituent assembly,” and that Israel would have to face the consequences.

Annexation “would kill any possibility of peace with Israel,” he explained, and erode “the Palestinian, regional and international consensus” on a two-state solution. Israel, he warned, must now “feel the heat of international pressure.”

He said the PA had sent a plan for Palestinian statehood to the Quartet on the Middle East – the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia − in response to the Trump Administration’s plan, which sees as much as 30% of the West Bank being annexed by Israel.

“We submitted a counterproposal to the Quartet a few days ago,” Shtayyeh said.

The PA plan provides for the creation of a “sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarized,” with “minor modifications of borders where necessary,” he noted.

Unlike Erekat, Shtayyeh made clear that the PA was not going anywhere.

“On the issue of dissolving the Palestinian Authority, look, let’s not fool ourselves: The PA is not a gift from anybody. The PA came into being because of the sacrifices of the Palestinian people since 1965 [when the PLO launched its first guerrilla attack, against Israel’s water infrastructure]. So we are not waiting for somebody to give us less or more. It’s not a gift. And you don’t give a gift back,” he said.

He called the PA a “national interest” for Palestinians.

“For us, the issue is not to dissolve the PA, throw away the keys and go home,” he explained. “But if Israel wants to destroy the Authority with the measures it is taking, we know how to resist it. And that is why I’m saying that the status quo cannot be maintained.”

Shtayyeh called Israeli annexation an “existential threat” for the Palestinians.

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