JERICHO (Ma'an) -- Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat slammed a recent decision by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to designate the Palestinian National Fund (PNF) -- a PLO institution that provides monthly financial aid to families of Palestinians who were either killed or wounded in the conflict with Israel -- as a "terrorist organization."
Erekat's comments came during two separate meetings held in the occupied West Bank city of Jericho with EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Fernando Gentilini and China’s ambassador to Palestine Chen Xingzhong.
Erekat said that such a decision represented the withdrawal of Israel’s recognition of the PLO, and called upon Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say explicitly whether or not his government had in fact reversed the 1993 decision that recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.
Erekat also denounced Israel for intensifying settlement expansion and "imposing facts on the ground" -- especially in the occupied East Jerusalem -- describing the escalation as "part and parcel of the Israeli plan to destroy the two-state solution and replace it with an apartheid system based on one state with two systems."
In a statement released on Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also condemned Lieberman’s decision, and reiterated that the PNF “operates according to international agreements and standards.”
Abbas said his government “strongly opposed” the defense minister’s move and called upon the Israeli government to cancel it immediately, warning that the decision would "lead to the collapse of the foundations of the Oslo Accords and the legal relationship with Israel," Israeli media quoted him as saying.
In Palestinian society, the PLO is responsible for providing financial assistance to families of those slain, injured, or imprisoned by Israeli forces. In 2016, this included 112 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces and nearly 4,000 Palestinians wounded by Israeli forces mostly during clashes, according to UN documentation.
In addition, Israeli authorities currently hold 6,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, including 536 without charge or trial. The group has reported that 40 percent of the Palestinian male population has at some point been detained by Israeli forces.