Xinhua (Opinion)
January 24, 2013 - 1:00am


 A senior Palestinian peace negotiator said Thursday in a special interview with Xinhua that he expects a future confrontational relationship with Israeli right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu if he forms the new government in Israel.

Mohamed Ishteyah, also a member of the central committee in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, revealed that the ties between the Palestinians and Netanyahu "is not friendly, but it is a relationship between an occupier and a state that is under his occupation."

"This relationship is based on collision and we expect that the confrontational relationship with Netanyahu will go on as long as Netanyahu himself doesn't want to change this kind of relationship by deciding to go to the negotiation table based on clear and new principles of peace," said Ishteyah.

The right-wing Likud party led by Netanyahu, the current Israeli premier, became the biggest winner in Tuesday's Israeli parliamentary elections. The party formed a coalition with another right-wing party, and their joint list harvested 31 seats of the parliament.

However, the election results showed a clear retreat in Israelis' support for Netanyahu's right-wing force, as the number of its seats has dropped.

"The results of the elections were not a surprise to the Palestinians, because most of the competing parties haven't yet presented any future plan on how to run the peace process with the Palestinians," said Ishteyah, adding that there are different scenarios concerning the formation of the government.

Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been suspended since October 2010, just one month after they were resumed in Washington. The Palestinians halted the talks right after Netanyahu's government announced that it will continue the construction of settlements.

"The opportunities to resume peace talks are only decided by Netanyahu when he forms his new government and decides on what will be its program for making peace with the Palestinians," said Ishteyah, "It is clear that Netanyahu's message will be clearly more settlement and more violence."

The veteran Palestinian politician stressed that what is needed for Netanyahu to do in order to resume the peace talks with the Palestinians "is to seriously and bravely declare the end of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and recognize the two-state solution based on 1967 (borderline)."

"He can only prove that he wants peace by halting settlement in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, which kills the Palestinian state, " he said, adding that amid the current situation the opportunities of resuming the stalled peace talks are almost not existing.

The Palestinian official assured that "Netanyahu and his party, unfortunately, don't carry any political plan for peace," adding that the international community "should question Netanyahu about this and urges him to recognize the state of Palestine that gained a global consensus."

Asked what the Palestinians are planning to do after the Israeli elections, Ishteyah told Xinhua at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah that "regardless of what happens in Israel, we have our own political plan that starts with ending the internal division and achieving reconciliation (with Hamas)."

"The Palestinians will also focus on the peaceful popular struggle against the policies of Netanyahu until we succeed to end the occupation of our lands and establish our independent Palestinian state on the territories Israel occupied in 1967," said Ishteyah.

Right after the end of the Israeli elections, the Palestinians announced that they will deal with any government to be formed in Israel after the elections, although Netanyahu had announced in his campaign that he would not remove the settlements in the Palestinian territories.

"Well, this certainly would keep all options for the Palestinians opened and under discussions, including the reconsideration of the day-by-day ties of cooperation with Israel, " said Ishteyah, adding that "we are ready to reconsider the security coordination if Israel continues its stubbornness."

However, he said the option of dissolving the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is not an option for the Palestinian leadership "because the PNA is not an old suit that we can take off whenever we want, but an achievement that we still work on keeping it."

Asked if there is a European initiative to revive the stalled peace process, Ishteyah ruled it out by saying that "I don't think there is a new European peace initiative, but what is so important for us is to have an international consensus against halting settlement."

The senior Palestinian official criticized the United States for not being seriously involved in a serious peace process in the Middle East, adding that the Arabs and the Palestinians "are still hoping to see U.S. President Barack Obama getting more involved in bringing peace back on track."


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