Photo Credit: Amir Levy/Flash90
Saeb Erekat

PLO Executive Committee Secretary Dr. Saeb Erekat on Thursday called for “imposing sanctions on Israel to force it to halt settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Erekat was referring to the announcement by the Supreme Planning Council of the Civil Administration of some 1,000 new housing units to be built this year and next, spread over several Israeli settlements, mostly in Samaria. This number was greatly reduced from Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s announcement in January this year, which set it at 1,285 units to be constructed immediately, plus 2,500 additional units to be pushed through the planning and execution stages in more than 20 settlements across Judea and Samaria.

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“The settlement expansion in occupied Palestine by the Israeli occupation authority is not only a serious violation of international humanitarian law, but a war crime that would not have happened without the international community granting Israel immunity and treating it as a state which is above the law,” Erekat said, and called on the international community to impose sanctions on Israel until it recognizes and fulfills its obligations under international law and the UN resolutions.

Erekat blamed the US administration for encouraging Israel to expand its settlements. “The announcement of the construction of more illegal settlement units in the occupied Palestinian territory, and the commitment of the occupation government to colonial expansion and apartheid, are the result of American encouragement,” he said, stressing that “the failure of the State Department to condemn such illegal colonial plans, provides Tel Aviv with the green light to continue violations of international law that threaten peace and security in our region.”

Of course, as soon as Israel halts the construction of 650 units in Beit El – which is the actual number we’ll probably see this year, if at all – then peace will reign in Syria, the Saudis and Yemenites will stop murdering each other, and millions of Egyptians will come out of the graveyards where they are forced to live, to receive the nourishing meals they so richly deserve. Just like it was after Israel evacuated its settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Erekat was extremely unhappy with the recent statements made by President Donald Trump and his NSA John Bolton about taking the Jerusalem issue off the table with the embassy move, which, as Trump promised, should encourage Israel to pay a higher price in the next phase of the peace negotiations (a.k.a. Deal of the Century).

Erekat insisted “there is no price for Jerusalem, and it makes no sense to be the state of Palestine without Jerusalem with the Holy Haram (Temple Mount) and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Old City and its walls. Its our capital.”

“Trump, Bolton and Netanyahu must understand that there can be no peace without East Jerusalem being the capital of the state of Palestine in the 1967 borders,” Erekat declared.

The PLO bigwig also warned against indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel over a truce and the establishment of a sea corridor connecting the Gaza Strip with Cyprus, saying that “those who preach a port in Cyprus and an airport in Eilat and the easing of the siege must realize that they are engaged with Netanyahu and Trump, for whim this would be a cheap price o pay for Jerusalem and the demise of an independent Palestinian state – this is called the slap on the face of the century.”

An equally irate PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi on Thursday said that “Jerusalem is beyond price,” stressing that “taking Jerusalem off the table only means taking peace off the table,” and suggested that taking Jerusalem off the table disqualified the US as an honest peace broker and identified it instead as a warmonger.

British Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Alistair Burt condemned Israel’s continued policy of ignoring the international community with its plans to build 1,000 new settlements, and demanded that it “stop doing so.”

“Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories are illegal under international law and remain one of the main obstacles to reaching a two-state solution, Palestinian and Israeli,” Burt said in a statement. He called on all parties to “commit additional efforts to remove current tensions and create conditions conducive to a lasting peace.”

And so we can report that as of Friday, August 24, 2018, nothing new has happened.

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