Erekat: There Will be No 'Settlers' in 'Palestine'
As expected, the Palestinian Authority (PA) reacted with outrage on Sunday to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s idea that if a Palestinian state is established in Judea and Samaria, Jews who wish to remain in that state should be allowed to do so.
While Netanyahu did not publicly make this statement, a source in the Prime Minister's Office told reporters that Netanyahu believes there is no reason for the Palestinian state, if it is created, to be “mono-ethnic.”
The source explained that the idea is a continuation of Netanyahu's statement in his speech at Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, in which he made clear that he does not intend to evict Jews from any communities in Judea and Samaria.
Responding to the idea, the PA’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told The Associated Press (AP), "Anyone who says he wants to keep settlers in the Palestinian state is actually saying that he doesn't want a Palestinian state."
"No settler will be allowed to stay in the Palestinian state, not even a single one, because settlements are illegal and the presence of the settlers on the occupied lands is illegal," he declared.
Erekat’s comments should not come as a surprise to anyone, as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has vowed not to allow a single Jew to live in "Palestine." He has stated this several times, the last time being during his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week.
The PA was not the only one to react with outrage to the idea attributed to Netanyahu. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) quickly shot down the idea in a Facebook post.
“The idea that Jewish communities will live under Palestinian sovereignty, as expressed by the Prime Minister's Office, is a very grave matter, and it reflects a panicked loss of values,” said Bennett.
"2,000 years of longing for the Land of Israel did not transpire so that we could live under Abu Mazen's rule,” he added, noting the idea “pulls the ground out from beneath our settlement of Tel Aviv” as well.
Members of Netanyahu’s Likud party were quick to reject the idea as well. Deputy Minister of Transportation, MK Tzipi Hotovely, said that “a diplomatic plan that relegates the Jewish settlement enterprise to Palestinian sovereignty will not receive political backing in Likud. The commitment not to uproot settlements is not enough. It is important that Israeli sovereignty be maintained.”
Deputy Defense Minister MK Danny Danon rejected the plan and said, “Whoever thinks that Jews will live under Palestinian control in Judea and Samaria is invited to try and visit Gaza today and understand the meaning of 'tolerance' in the Middle East.”
Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis shot down the plan, saying, “The idea of leaving Israelis under Palestinian rule can be described in one word: surreal.”
Meanwhile, an official with the Prime Minister’s Office responded to Erekat’s comments and said they proved that the Arabs were not willing to make peace with Israel.
"Nothing reveals more the unwillingness of the Palestinian Authority to reach a settlement with Israel than their extreme and reckless response to an unofficial publication," said the official, who was quoted by Kol Yisrael radio.