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Middle East

Erekat: 'Trump should send a message of peace'

Donald Trump has announced plans to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem. That would mean there is no hope for the two-state solution, says Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Deutsche Welle: Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is not even close to top of the list of concerns for right-leaning Israelis, who oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state. So why would Donald Trump do it?

Saeb Erekat: This is a question for President Trump. So far, we haven't seen any official step towards moving the embassy. Rather, there were some slogans used during his campaign. We have to wait and see, which is not the same as not preparing for it if this happens. We have steps that we can take if the announcement is made, but we hope that nothing will change.

What signal would this send to the Palestinians, who regard East Jerusalem as a capital for a future Palestinian state?

That there is no future for any political process, that there's no hope for the two-state solution. Occupied East Jerusalem is not part of Israel and its annexation hasn't been recognized by any member of the international community, including the United States, that allowed two important Security Council resolutions to pass, 476 and 478, both referring to the annexation as null and void and calling upon the international community not to have their diplomatic missions to Israel in the city.

Do you expect Donald Trump to neglect the Palestinians?

We hope that President Trump will engage in our region based on the principles of freedom, justice and equality that his country has defended for its own people. We are humans like anybody else, who should not be discriminated, our rights systematically violated, with an occupying power that imposes an apartheid regime upon us. We are ready to work with President Trump based on those principles.

Do you fear that new fighting could erupt?

We are not calling for violence, but the people have the right to be mobilized for their rights. Jerusalem is the heart of Palestine, and Palestine is the heart of the Arab World. Jerusalem is not only a symbol - without it there will be no independent state. Jerusalem is not only Al-Aqsa and the Holy Sepulcher, but our memories and our heritage. We have made the offer that Jerusalem should be an open city, with its Eastern part, occupied in 1967, being the sovereign capital of Palestine. Israel says no. We say: Let Jerusalem be the center of the three monotheistic religions. Israel says that things will remain as they are now, when millions of Christians and Muslims have been denied their right to worship in Jerusalem due to the Israeli occupation. We tell President Trump from Jerusalem that he should send a message of peace by recognizing the State of Palestinewithin the 1967 borders, rather than a message of war and hate by legitimizing the illegal Israeli annexation of the city.  

Tempelberg Jerusalem (AFP/Getty Images/T. Coex)

Erekat: 'Jerusalem is not only a symbol'

You called moving the embassy a "red line". What impact would this decision have on the peace process and on the two-state solution?

The whole idea of the two-state solution is to live and let live, to end the occupation and establish two sovereign and democratic states within the 1967 borders. If a major actor such as the U.S. decides to legitimize Israel's annexation of occupied territory, there is no reason to have any political process with Israel. Washington's position has been to refer to settlements as illegal and not to recognize the annexation of Jerusalem. This was part of the letter of guarantees we received before going into the peace process. If this is off the table, then there is no reason to keep the painful compromises we've made, including the recognition of Israel within the 1967 borders, equivalent to 78 percent of our historic homeland.  

What consequences are to be expected from the Palestinian Authority if Trump really moves the U.S. embassy?

We have a plan and it is being discussed internally. We have said that we are not calling for violence, but that we are going to react politically and diplomatically. Our people are organized and several demonstrations have already taken place. Religious Christian and Muslim leaders have opposed the move. We believe it is too early to announce anything, and we hope that no announcement will be made, but if that's the case, we'll be prepared and several steps will be announced publicly.  

Do you expect any reaction from the Arab World - since Jerusalem and its holy sites play an important role for the Arab World, for both Muslims and Christians?

We are acting in full coordination with the Arab League. We also had a successful bilateral meeting with King Abdullah in order to coordinate the action of Jordan and Palestine. This is not about threatening anyone. It is about defending our internationally recognized rights in a place that is highly sensitive for billions of people, including hundreds of millions of Arabs, both Christians and Muslims.

Saeb Erekat is the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization. He negotiated the Oslo Accords with Israel in the 1990s.

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