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PLO official to Post: Palestinians dissatisfied with Bennett gov’t

CM 28/07/2021

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The Palestinians are not satisfied with the new government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett because it hasn’t made any serious changes in the Israeli policy towards settlements, PLO official Ashraf al-Ajrami said on Wednesday.

The Palestinians also do not expect the Israeli government to resume the stalled peace process with Israel any time in the near future, Ajrami, who previously served as the Palestinian Authority Minister for Prisoners Affairs, told The Jerusalem Post.
Ashraf al-Ajrami (Photo credit: Courtesy)Ashraf al-Ajrami (Photo credit: Courtesy)
He predicted that the Biden administration would not exert pressure on the Israeli government at this stage to return to the negotiating table with the Palestinians.
“The new government in Israel is different than the previous one that was headed by Benjamin Netanyahu,” said Ajrami, who currently serves as a member of the PLO’s Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society.
“The Netanyahu government was very right wing and its policies were based on a far-right ideology. The new government, however, has Labor, Meretz and an Arab party. Therefore, the new government can’t be worse than the Netanyahu government. It can even take some steps to change the reality on the ground, but not to the point of going to a real peace process to solve the conflict. The steps it takes could pave the way for the resumption of peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.”

According to Ajrami, the Palestinians are ready to return to the peace talks with Israel “under any circumstances and at any time.”
“But,” he clarified, “This depends on the issues that would be discussed during the negotiations. We will return to the talks if the goal is to reach a lasting solution to the conflict on the basis of two states for two peoples. If Israel is prepared to go to serious and real peace negotiations on the basis of these principles, the Palestinian leadership would be ready to resume the peace talks immediately.”
Ajrami told the Post that the Palestinian leadership does not believe that the Biden administration will put pressure on Israel to immediately enter negotiations with the Palestinians about reaching a solution to the conflict.
“The current Israeli coalition is fragile and it is not ready to revive the peace process, especially because there are three right-wing parties that reject a settlement on the basis of a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders,” Ajrami said.
He revealed that the Biden administration has told the Palestinians not to pin high hopes on the new Israeli government regarding the possibility of a breakthrough in the peace process.
“On the other hand, there is no doubt that the Biden administration will exert pressure on Israel to take some limited steps to improve the situation on the ground in the Palestinian-controlled areas and to prepare the atmosphere for additional measures that may come later,” the Palestinian official said.
“The Biden administration has affirmed that its policy towards the conflict is based on the two-state solution and this is good news for the Palestinians. This, in addition to the announcement by this administration that it will reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem and resume financial aid to the Palestinians. Moreover, this administration is opposed to any unilateral moves by Israel, including settlement construction and changing the status quo in Jerusalem.”
Ajrami said that there is a “serious dialogue” between the Palestinian leadership and the Biden administration about the steps that need to be taken to enhance the peace process and improve the situation on the ground. He confirmed that the Biden administration had recently asked Israel “to help the PA, which is facing a sharp economic crisis.”
Ajrami pointed out that there was fear in the US and Israel about the possible collapse of the PA, a move which, he said, will undoubtedly result in chaos and lawlessness in the West Bank.
The Israelis and Americans have an interest in preserving the PA and strengthening it, he said. “They want the Palestinian Authority to continue its role in fulfilling its duties towards the Palestinian population and continuing to ensure stability and security,” Ajrami said.
He acknowledged, nonetheless, that the PA leadership’s credibility has been seriously undermined due to a number of developments, including the decision to call of the parliamentary elections that were supposed to take place on May 22 and the death of anti-corruption activist Nizar Banat while in PA custody.
The Palestinian leadership, Ajrami argued, has failed to explain its position and policies to the Palestinians, while its rivals managed to win the sympathy of the people. 
But this does not mean that the recent protests that erupted in the West Bank following the death of Banat pose an imminent threat to the PA, he said.
Ajrami noted that the protesters were not speaking in one voice and do not seem to be united. “Some are demanding reforms, while others are calling for regime change and want President Mahmoud Abbas to step down,” he remarked. “There are too many slogans and contradictory goals and interests.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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