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Erekat Condemns Vote on Jordan Valley Annexation

Chief PA negotiator says Israel is "destroying peace" by approving a bill to annex the Jordan Valley.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/30/2013, 2:42 AM

Saeb Erakat
Saeb Erakat
AFP/File

The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) chief negotiator for peace talks with Israel on Sunday condemned the vote by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in favor of a bill that would annex the Jordan Valley and place it under full Israeli sovereignty.

Four ministers voted in favor of the draft law, which was proposed by Likud MK Miri Regev. Three opposed it.

Responding to the vote, chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Ma’an news agency that the decision destroys all efforts for peace with Israel, showing the Israeli government's "indifference" toward international law.

Erekat added that the PA’s response should be to seek statehood recognition by the United Nations and other international bodies.

He called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for such a decision.

The Jordan Valley, situated in eastern Samaria (Shomron), has been the topic of contention in recent months. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly attempting to force a deal on Israel and the PA which would see an Israeli "withdrawal" from all of Judea and Samaria, but allow for a temporary arrangement whereby IDF and/or foreign forces would maintain a presence in the Jordan Valley.

The Israeli government argues the Valley is strategically important, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has insisted in the past that, in the event of a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, Israel would still keep troops in the area.

Erekat’s comments are not the first time that a PA official has spoken in favor of more unilateral moves at the UN.

In fact, the PA has threatened several times that if peace talks fail, it’ll turn to international institutions in its capacity as a non-member observer state in the UN and seek to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court.

On Saturday, PA official Nabil Shaath said that peace talks are doomed to fail and, as such, the PA would need to use what he termed “smart resistance”, namely join more UN organizations and dedicate efforts to achieve reconciliation with Hamas.

One of the three ministers who voted against the Jordan Valley sovereignty bill was Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. She attacked the ministers who voted for the bill, and called it “an irresponsible proposal that will harm Israel and isolate it.”

"Some of those who supported the bill would have opposed it, if they had known it would pass,” she added. “They are taking advantage of the fact that I will file an appeal and do the work for them.”

Livni also attacked MK Regev, saying, “I have no respect for the bill nor for its proposer.”

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation decides which proposed bills will enjoy the support of the coalition. Bills it approves are likely to pass in the plenum. However, Livni's appeal means that the Committee will vote on the bill again in the coming weeks.