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      State Department Takes Issue with Erekat

      United States expresses concern over comments against Israel by chief PA negotiator, says they are "unhelpful".
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 2/20/2014, 3:45 AM

      Saeb Erekat
      Saeb Erekat
      Flash 90

      The United States on Wednesday expressed concern over comments against Israel by the chief Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiator, Saeb Erekat.

      "We are of course concerned about the recent comments by Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters, hinting that Secretary of State John Kerry would raise the issue during his meeting in Paris with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

      "We've said all along that it's important to create a positive atmosphere around these discussions. The personal attacks, quite frankly, are unhelpful, and the secretary will make clear that these kinds of comments are disappointing, that they are unhelpful, especially coming from someone involved in the negotiations, indeed the lead negotiator," said Harf.

      Erekat has continued to attack Israel throughout the peace process. Last week he slammed Israel as a “racist state” that should be punished and has in the past accused Israel of applying a policy of apartheid in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

      Last Friday, speaking to members of the Palestinian Arab community in London, the chief PA negotiator reiterated the PA’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, saying Abbas made it clear to the Americans that he would not recognize Israel a Jewish state, and claiming that Israel's demand for recognition stems from its desire to change historical facts.

      Erekat has repeatedly blamed Israel for the lack of progress in peace talks, claiming that Israel was stubborn and refused to make any concessions while the PA had given up many of its demands.

      “I want, for the fifth time now, Mr. Prime Minister of Israel, to address his people, to tell his people, to prepare his people for what is needed, yes, and to say, 1-9-6-7. That’s what he needs to say,” he said in a radio interview last week.

      Also last week, Erekat told the Chinese Xinhua news agency that Israel may wage a war against Gaza in order to thwart Kerry's peace efforts.

      "If [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu feels that Kerry's plan is based on international law, he will wage a new war against the Gaza Strip to undermine it," he claimed.