- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2012

Palestinians will oppose Israel nonviolently if the Jewish state proceeds with plans to build settlements between Jerusalem and the West Bank, the top Palestinian official in Washington said Friday.

“We are going to resort to whatever venues are available to us in order to make sure that Israel does not kill our dream, kill our hope and keep us under their military occupation forever,” said Maen Rashid Areikat, chief representative of the general delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

He said Palestinians would use “whatever is available to us legally, diplomatically, politically,” but not armed conflict.

Israel announced plans to construct 3,000 housing units for Jewish settlers in the so-called E1 zone, which includes East Jerusalem and the West Bank, hours after the U.N. General Assembly granted the Palestinians nonmember observer state status on Nov. 29.

U.N. regulations ban construction of settlements in occupied territories.

“E1 is a red line, and if Israel embarks on that it will be sending … a final signal to us that there will be no Palestinian state,” Mr. Areikat told reporters at a meeting hosted Friday by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to yield to pressure from the international community, including the U.S., to halt construction plans.

Palestinians say the construction of more settlements between East Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim would sound a death knell for a two-state solution.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, at a Christian Science Monitor meeting with reporters Tuesday, dismissed this suggestion as a “canard.”

He said the announcement of settlement construction was intended to send a message to the Palestinians.

“We felt if the Palestinians were taking unilateral actions in the U.N. … we had to send a message that we could also take unilateral actions,” he said.

Although the Obama administration has criticized Israeli plans to expand settlements, Mr. Areikat said the administration has not treated Palestinians and Israel in an evenhanded manner.

“It is very obvious that they have not done that. … Look at the issue of the settlements and us going to the United Nations,” he said. “Everybody in the world knows that the settlements are illegal. … What have they done to hold Israel accountable?”

“When it comes to us resorting to a legitimate venue … we get reprimanded and we get threatened by Congress and by others for resorting to that legitimate venue,” he added.

The key to any successful peace effort is to hold both parties accountable, Mr. Areikat said. “It doesn’t work to always blame the Palestinians.”

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