Erekat on Rice Visit and Agreement on Movement and Access

Press Releases
October 04, 2006


Today, Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat characterized United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to the occupied Palestinian territory as “significant.” Ms Rice is scheduled to meet with Palestinian leaders later this afternoon.

Mr. Erekat said he hoped that Rice would take swift and decisive action on three areas: (1) Implementing the Agreement on Movement and Access; (2) jumpstarting a political process; and (3) enforcing a “genuine, immediate and comprehensive settlement freeze as required by the Roadmap.”

“One year ago, the entire international community feared that Gaza would become a prison [after the Israeli withdrawal]. The Quartet [for Middle East Peace] stressed that the best way to improve security for Palestinians and Israelis alike is to increase economic opportunity for Palestinians.”

Mr. Erekat continued: “One year ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came and helped Palestinians negotiate a comprehensive agreement to ensure the free movement of Palestinian people and goods. One year later, Israel still refuses to implement the Agreement. Gaza has become that prison and we see the result: Needless suffering and extremism fueled.”

The Agreement on Movement and Access promised to ease movement restrictions on Palestinian people and goods throughout the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. According to the United Nations, Israel has tightened those restrictions considerably. Poverty in the occupied Palestinian territory is now at 65%, up from 50% in 2005. Nearly 90% of Gazans now live in poverty.

“Full implementation of the Agreement will immediately relieve the humanitarian crisis, give people hope and real options for their families, and therefore stabilize the political situation. Just as we could not have concluded the agreement alone, we cannot implement it alone. Today, we need the same engaged and determined partner we had a year ago.”

Mr. Erekat cautioned, however, that “any renewed diplomatic attention must not distract from the real threats to peace and security in Israel and Palestine.”

He explained that the Agreement on Movement and Access was viewed as a way to “create the conditions for peacemaking, and not an end unto itself.” He continued: “[The Agreement] is critical [to creating an environment for renewing the peace process]. But it ignores the most critical issues of the day: Israel’s Wall and mushrooming settlements.”

Approximately 80% of Israel’s Wall will be routed inside the occupied West Bank upon completion. In 2004, the International Court of Justice reaffirmed that the Wall and all of Israel’s settlements—including those in occupied East Jerusalem—are illegal.

“Rice has the power to bring real change. But just at the very time she’s coming, Israel is expanding its settlements, undermining prospects for a viable two-state solution.”

Last month, Israel issued tenders for hundreds of new settlement units in the Jerusalem-area settlements of Ma’ale Adumim and Betar Illit. A second police station was recently completed in the strategic E-1 area, between Ma’ale Adumim and East Jerusalem.

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