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Senior Palestinian official admits no new plan to tackle Israeli settlements

Nasser al-Kidwa urges Palestinians to fight 'patiently and slowly' for rights and plays down calls for PA to take Israel to International Criminal Court
Nasser al-Kidwa said there is 'no panacea' for Palestinians' plight (AFP)

A senior Palestinian official admitted that the Palestinian Authority has no new plan to halt the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and to meaningfully address wavering support in Washington for a viable Palestinian state.

Reacting on Thursday to US President Donald Trump's comments suggesting he was not committed to a two-state solution, Nasser al-Kidwa, a former former foreign minister and UN representative for the PA, told Middle East Eye that Palestinians needed to mobilise against settler "colonisation" and campaign "patiently and slowly" for their rights.

But pressed to explain what concrete measures the PA planned to take in response to an acceleration of settlement construction in the West Bank, and deepening ties between the White House and Israel's government, Kidwa said there was no "panacea" for the Palestinians' plight.

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"I understand I may disappoint you but let me tell you, we don't have in our means either a panacea nor any potential step that would magically make us overcome Israeli actions or Israeli measures in the ground – there is no such thing," said Kidwa.

Kidwa, a member of Fatah's central committee, also appeared to play down calls for the PA to take Israel to the International Criminal Court over illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Although the option of going to the ICC should be considered seriously, Kidwa said that taking that path would be "complicated".

"Some people think it's an easy action that can be done in 24 hours and it will achieve results in the next 24 hours," he said.

"That's not true. It's a complex issue. The important thing is to have a clear position and to push for it seriously. But looking for something new, it's not a real thing."

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Kidwa said that Washington's policy towards the Middle East peace process was still unclear, despite vocal support expressed by Trump for Israel and rumoured preparations by his administration to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In a news conference with Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, Trump said of the peace process: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like.

"I can live with either one. I thought for a while it looked like the two-state, looked like it may be the easier of the two, but honestly if Bibi [Netanyahu] and the Palestinians and Israel are happy, I am happy with the one they like the best."

Questions over US policy towards Israel were raised further on Thursday when five former US ambassadors in Tel Aviv wrote to a Senate committee that they considered Trump's nomination for the post, David Friedman, to be unsuitable and unqualified.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US President Donald Trump at a press conference on Wednesday (Reuters)

Kidwa said that comments made in the news conference could be interpreted in different ways.

"I believe no final policy has been adopted by the [US] administration," he said.

"What is important is to make our Palestinian position clear. In light of the absence of a clear [US] policy, we need a strong Palestinian position and an attempt to participate in formulating such a policy in the coming weeks."

Calling for Palestinians to "mobilise," Kidwa said: "I cannot accept the idea that Israel will create facts on the ground that would prevent or undermine the existence of our national state.

"Sooner or later, peacefully or otherwise, [the settlers] will go and that has to remain our position."

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But asked what measures the PA planned to take, Kidwa called for Palestinians to step up existing means of resistance to Israeli settlement-building, including through demonstrations, boycotting settlement products and refusing to work on the land they occupied.

"What we need to do is, patiently and slowly, step by step, to insist on the use of the tools we already have, knowing that it will take time and effort. Knowing that there will not magically be a sudden change. And in the end we will have our rights."

Speaking at an earlier news conference in Ramallah, Kidwa said that the Palestinian people "will not disappear" and claimed that the Palestinians had the support of the "Arab and Islamic world".

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He said any negotiated settlement would have to meet the terms laid out in the Arab Peace Initiative, a 2002 proposal endorsed by the Arab League, which called for the withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"The tools we have are the just Palestinian cause, international law and Arab support. The Arab Peace Initiative is very clear, and there will be no relationship with Israel before ending the occupation," he said.

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