March 28, 2009 - 12:00am

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's plan for "economic peace" will only prolong Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories, the chief Palestinian negotiator wrote in an opinion piece published Saturday.

"Rather than ending the occupation, Netanyahu has proposed an 'economic peace' that would seek to normalize and better manage it," wrote Saeb Erekat in the Washington Post.

"Instead of a viable Palestinian state, his vision extends no further than a series of disconnected cantons with limited self-rule."

Netanyahu has said that instead of talking about contentious issues such as the status of Jerusalem, the first step to a lasting peace needs to be the fostering of the Palestinians' economic situation.

Under outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the Palestinian Authority held negotiations with Israel over a final-status peace accord.

Erekat, however, said Palestinians have not engaged in years of negotiations to see them fail, warning that their patience was not "unlimited."

He urged the incoming government to enforce a complete halt to settlement construction and publicly back the Palestinian bid for statehood.

"The new Israeli government must unequivocally affirm its support for the two-state solution and the establishment of a viable, independent and fully sovereign Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, and it must commit to past agreements between Israel and the PLO," he wrote.

"Without these commitments, Palestinians have no partner for peace."

Netanyahu did in fact vow on Wednesday to engage in peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, while stressing the importance of Palestinian economic development.

In the op-ed, Erekat also praised the United State's renewed commitment under president Barack Obama to brokering "a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis."

He called on the U.S. to serve as an honest broker capable of creating a level playing field between Palestinians and Israelis during talks.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017