Former Palestinian Authority (PA) minister Ashraf al-Ajrami said Monday that the PA does not oppose the possibility that Jews would live in a future state of “Palestine” as citizens.
Al Ajrami told IDF Radio that “Israeli settlements will not be allowed to remain inside the territory of the Palestinian state.”
"If you want to reside [there], you will have to reside [there] as a Palestinian citizen like all the others,” he explained. “If there is agreement on leaving a few thousand [Jewish] citizens within the territory of the Palestinian Authority, that can be done. But Israeli settlements – that is, under some kind of Israeli control – will not exist.”
Al Ajrami had been asked to respond to the idea leaked by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's bureau, according to which Jewish communities will not be torn down in a future peace deal with “Palestine” – but rather transferred intact into Palestinian sovereignty.
Al Ajrami also estimated that the negotiations between Israel and the PA are on the verge of collapse. “I know where things stand,” he assured his interviewer.
The idea of leaving the settlers in “Palestine” was met with angry criticism by most nationalist spokesmen, including Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett, senior Likud politicians and leaders of the settlement enterprise.
Netanyahu's bureau responded to this criticism by claiming that from the outset, the idea was floated as a ruse – to expose the PA's refusal to accept Jews in its midst. If this is true, then PA negotiator Saeb Erekat fell into the trap when he proclaimed that the future “Palestine” would accept no Jews.
Al Ajrami may be trying to walk a fine line between wholesale rejection of any Jews in “Palestine,” and accepting hundreds of thousands of Jews. Accepting a Jewish population in homogenous communities would place “Palestine” in a situation similar to Israel – which has hundreds of thousands of Arabs in its midst as citizens, in homogenous communities. It would also force the PA to accept a sizable number of Jews in its parliament, as representatives of the Jewish community.