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Erekat, Livni argue history at Munich meeting

Feb. 2, 2014 7:54 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 4, 2014 9:34 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – A heated argument erupted Sunday between the chief PLO negotiator and his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni during a symposium about the Middle East peace process, Erekat's office said.

US Middle East envoy Martin Indic and international Quartet envoy Tony Blair were present at the meeting in Germany, at the Munich Security Forum, according to Erekat’s office.

The argument started when Livni used the Israeli term "Judea and Samaria" to describe the West Bank and urged the Palestinians to stop using Arabic names for cities like Haifa and Jaffa and to back down from demanding the return of Palestinian refugees to those cities, Erekat's office explained.

“Israel is a powerful state which owns 3,000 military tanks, 2,000 warplanes, nuclear weapons and full support by the US Congress. Thus, what are my chances against this?" Erekat was quoted as saying.

“However, Israel has to choose between three choices one of which is the two-state solution which I am proposing,” Erekat said.

The second choice, he added, if the Israelis want to call Jericho by their Hebrew names “Yeriho” and to call Nablus “Shkheim”, is one state for both peoples.

The third choice, added Erekat, is the use of security pretexts to justify “apartheid” in the West Bank. “Now in 2014, there are streets in the West Bank which I can’t use as a Palestinian,” he added.

Livni, according to Erekat's office, responded that “Saeb says that if I want to use the Jewish name Yeriho to describe his city Jericho, I can do that, but in that case there will be one state.”

Well, she added, “it’s not about historical presentation. These areas in the West Bank which we call Judea and Samaria are part of our history, and we will not be able to convince you of that just as you will not be able to convince us of your historical narrative.”

Thus, she added, it’s not about whose narrative is more just, and whose claim of the land is more rightful, but rather about the possibility to maintain hopes about two states for two peoples.

“When this happens, please Saeb, don’t use Arabic names to talk about places in Israel such as Jaffa and Haifa. Well, you can use Arab names, but don’t tell refugees who are waiting in Lebanon and other areas with the keys of their houses that they can return to live in these areas because that is against the two-state solution.”

Livni’s remarks angered Erekat, who replied, “You are talking about historical narratives? Yes it is. I am the son of Jericho. Last year I celebrated my city's 10,000th birthday. I am proud to be a descendent of the Canaanites who lived in Jericho 5,500 years before Joshua who burnt Jericho and I will not alter my history.”

Direct negotiations began in July between Israel and the Palestinians in a US-led attempt to restart the deadlocked peace process.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to push Israel and the Palestinians towards a framework agreement ahead of an agreed April deadline.
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