TEL AVIV – Palestinian leaders lambasted a Saudi newspaper for siding with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by criticizing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ refusal to accept the Israeli premier’s invitation to address the Knesset.
“Whoever wrote this editorial is totally unaware of the reality of this so-called invitation,’’ said PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi. “It is a very obvious public relations trick that’s been overused. If Netanyahu wants peace, let him abide by the requirements of international law, the two-state solution, and the 1967 boundaries.’’
The editorial, published Sunday in the Saudi Gazette, suggested that the Palestinians “should not be too quick to dismiss the invitation,” adding that it was “reminiscent of the one issued by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to visit Israel” that led to the signing of a peace treaty between the erstwhile enemies.
“For all its shortcomings, Camp David demonstrated that negotiations with Israel were possible and that progress could be made through sustained efforts at communication and cooperation,’’ it added.
“Netanyahu’s gesture was quickly rejected by the Palestinians as a ‘new gimmick,’” the Saudi newspaper editorial said.
For her part, Ashrawi said the Egypt-Israel scenario was not analogous to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“It’s not a question of Egypt and Israel, two countries that wanted to make peace, it’s a question of an occupying force that is destroying the other state and it’s about people under occupation who have no rights and no power,” the Jerusalem Post cited Ashrawi as saying.
Ashrawi asserted her belief that “below the surface there are contacts [between Israel and Saudi Arabia] and all sorts of security considerations and Israel is positioning itself to be a regional power.’’ But she added: “No matter what happens, they won’t recognize or normalize with Israel because it hasn’t respected Palestinian rights and international law. Once the Palestinian issue is resolved things can move. Before that they might have secret contacts, but they can’t afford to lose their own constituency.”
Former Palestinian Authority cabinet minister Ghassan Khatib called the editorial “very strange and difficult to explain. I doubt this represents an official position.”
“It’s not consistent with what we hear from them on the official lines. We know the political landscape in Saudi Arabia and the public opinion atmosphere. Looking at that, I find it difficult to believe that this is the official line,” he added.