Palestinians light candles to honor the late South African leader Nelson Mandela as they mourn in Gaza City, Gaza, Dec. 8, 2013.
LEFT: Marwan Barghouti in Tel Aviv District Court on the opening day of his trial, Aug. 14, 2002; RIGHT: Nelson Mandela is released from prison, Feb. 11, 1990.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June-July 2012, Pages 65-66
PLO Ambassador Decries Israeli Occupation, American Complicity
Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat, the PLO's chief representative to the U.S., appeared at George Washington University in Washington, DC on March 21 to address a student audience. Throughout his remarks, Ambassador Areikat criticized Israel for its unrelenting occupation of Palestine and called on the U.S. to reassess its unflinching support for the country. The GWU Delta Phi Epsilon Professional Foreign Service Fraternity sponsored the event.
Ambassador Areikat began by asserting that, under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel has not been "in the mood to engage the Palestinians." "Israel is trying to preserve the status quo," he said, and is actively taking steps aimed at "pre-empting and undermining a two-state solution."
Claiming that Israel has "used time to consolidate its occupation," the ambassador lamented the fact that Zionist settlements are slowly "making the creation of a viable contiguous Palestinian state impossible."
"Israel does not want a Palestinian Authority that is pragmatic, reasonable and willing to negotiate a solution," the ambassador stated, accusing Israel of "embarking on a campaign to weaken the Palestinian National Authority." The Israeli Civic Administration maintains control over the issuance of permits for travel into Israel and within the West Bank, he pointed out. He also expressed his bewilderment and frustration at Israel being the only country to maintain that Palestine has failed to build the infrastructure and institutions necessary for statehood.
Ambassador Areikat expressed alarm at the increasingly violent nature of both Zionist settlers and the Israeli army. Palestinians are "being killed at an expedited rate," he said, charging Israel with having a "war agenda" rather than a "peace agenda." In his opinion, Israel is increasing its violence against the Palestinians in an effort to pressure them into accepting a peace agreement on Israel's conditions.
Furthermore, Areikat argued, Israel's provocative rhetoric toward Iran "is part of a concerted effort to divert attention" from its occupation. "Military adventures are not going to lead to peace," he warned, emphasizing that Israel can only obtain a true and lasting peace by making amends with its neighbors.
Describing the U.S. Congress as "more Israeli than the Israelis," Areikat lambasted U.S. legislators for their unfettered support for Israel. By encouraging Israel to continue with its dangerous policies, the ambassador said, lawmakers "are doing a major disservice" to their country and are "actually undermining the interests of the United States of America."
Noting the impact of election-year politics on U.S. foreign policy, Areikat cautioned that "a superpower such as the U.S…cannot afford to be busy with elections and ignore what is happening in the Middle East." The timidity that epitomizes U.S. policy in election years, he said, "[hurts] the reputation of the U.S. in the Middle East."
Areikat said he cannot understand why Palestine has been "subjected to the cutting off of aid because [its leaders] went to the United Nations" to request membership as a full state. By seeking statehood through the U.N., he noted, Palestine was adopting a "peaceful, diplomatic, nonviolent approach" toward independence.