New approach is needed on talks, PLO official says

NEW YORK (JTA) — The PLO representative to Washington called for a new approach to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying the two sides are far from resolution.

“We are not close to ending this conflict,” the representative, Maen Rashid Areikat, said Wednesday at a kosher luncheon organized by New York University’s Taub Center for Israel Studies and the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service.

“We cannot continue to pursue the same failed policies we’ve followed for 20 years,” he said. “We should abandon the management crisis efforts and get to the real work of conflict resolution here.”

Areikat said the current Israeli government is “not serious” about peace, telling the mostly Jewish audience that “You cannot continue to support Israel blindly, even when they make mistakes.”

The remark came a day after President Obama reportedly told a group of about 50 Jewish organizational representatives at the White House that they should speak to their friends and colleagues in Israel and to “search your souls” over Israel’s seriousness about making peace.

Areikat rejected the notion of resuming direct negotiations with Israel while Israel continues Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, saying it’s an issue of “credibility.”

The Palestinian Authority broke off direct talks with Israel after Israel’s self-imposed 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction expired last September, just weeks after the Palestinians had returning to the negotiating table.

Areikat also said that the Palestinians cannot return to the negotiating table until the endgame is clear on such issues as borders, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and a timeline for Palestinian statehood.

Areikat called his speech Wednesday part of the PLO’s “continued effort to open dialogue with the Jewish community.”

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