According to Palestinian Authority (PA) chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, Israel will be to blame if PA talks with Israel finally break down for good – not his Fatah group, which last week signed a cooperation agreement with Gaza terror group Hamas. “We do not relate to Hamas as a terror group,” Erekat told Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot. “Hamas is a political faction. The highest form of terrorism is the Israeli occupation.”
Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sharply criticized the Hamas-Fatah unity pact the two terror groups signed last week. PA Chief Mahmoud Abbas, he said, “made a pact with Hamas, and we hope he chooses to leave it and return to the path of peace...Instead of making statements that are designed to appease the international community, he must cease this pact with Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel.”
Erekat said in the interview that Israel's continued presence in Judea and Samaria was the main stumbling block to a peace deal, not the fact that Abbas pursued a unity agreement with a terror group that repeated Sunday that it would never recognize Israel's right to exist. “I do not believe we can continue to try and make peace with a government that continues to construct settlements,” said Erekat. “How can you build settlements and claim you are in favor of the two-state solution?” As long as Israel did not implement a building freeze in all of Judea and Samaria and most of Jerusalem, there would be no further talks, said Erekat.
Erekat added that Israel did not need any further “recognition” from Hamas or Fatah. “We have already recognized Israel. It is not up to us to recognize Israel. Never before in history that one state has been asked to define the borders of another state,” he said, referring to what he claimed was Israel's refusal to produce a map of the final-status borders it seeks. Regarding Abbas' refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Erekat said that by doing so, “you are asking me to change my narrative, to change my history. I am not asking you to change your narrative, do not ask me to change mine.”
Erekat has long been in favor of the unification agreement between Fatah and Hamas. Earlier this month, for example, he appealed to Hamas to join with Fatah and the PA in order to “fight together against Israel. I hereby declare, in the make of President Mahmoud Abbas and the directorate of Fatah, that Hamas is a Palestinian movement, and is not and never was a terror group,” Erekat added.