The top Palestinian representative in Washington Friday sharply warned that Israel's plans to build new settlements on the West Bank are a "red line" that, if crossed, would prompt a harsh retaliation short of war.
"E1 is a red line," said Maen Rashid Areikat, chief representative of the general delegation of the PLO to the United States, of the development Israel is planning. Areikat said Israel's goal with the new development is to kill any hope of a two-state solution and eventual peace.
"If Israel crosses it, it means that there is no hope," he said. And if that happens, he added in a breakfast meeting with reporters, "It will have some...consequences."
Areikat, however, said that the PLO would not "advocate violence." Instead, he said the Palestine authorities would urge the United Nations and President Obama to take action, including cutting off support for development of the settlement which the PLO said would divide north and south West Bank and separate it from East Jerusalem, Palestine's eventual capital.
"We will resort to whatever venues are available to us," he said. Just two weeks ago, Palestine was recognized with non-member status to the United Nations. "E1 is going to be destructive to the peace process," he added at the session sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
Washington has verbally hit Israel's plans, but has not taken any effort to stop them.
In fact, Areikat sounded glum about the administration taking any effort to punish Israel. Instead, he said, it's always Palestine that gets rapped by Washington. "We get punished, we get reprimanded, we get threatened," said Areikat. He noted, for example, that Washington has yet to deliver any of the promised $440 million in aid this year.
He did hold out some hope, however, of better relations if Sen. John Kerry is named secretary of State, to replace the exiting Hillary Clinton. "We know Senator Kerry very well," he said. "We are very hopeful that the U.S. administration will get engaged and the sooner the better."
Earlier this week, at another Monitor meeting, Israel's Ambassador to the United States Ambassador Michael Oren dismissed the PLO's claims that the settlements would drive a wedge told reporters at a lunch meeting in Washington.
He suggested that Palestinians could simply build a tunnel under them.
"All of that is just simply a canard," Oren said. "The strip of land can either be overpassed by a bridge, by a cloverleaf, or by a very short tunnel," he says.