x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Palestinian warns of dangerous times

Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister warns the next few months will be a "very fragile" and "very dangerous" period for Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, fears speeding up construction of Jewish settlements could bring the peace process to a halt.
Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, fears speeding up construction of Jewish settlements could bring the peace process to a halt.

ABU DHABI // Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister has warned that the next few months will be a "very fragile" and "very dangerous" period for Israeli-Palestinian relations because of uncertainty over the future leadership of the United States and Israel. Dr Malki said in an interview the possibility of early elections in Israel could lead to a speeding up in the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and bring the peace process to a halt.

If Tzipi Livni, the Israeli prime minister-designate, failed to form a coalition government, attempts to reach a lasting peace in the region would go on hold, he warned. "If she fails to form the government we should really expect early elections, maybe by March next year," Dr Malki said. "Which means we will be waiting for elections in Israel and waiting for a new administration in the United States."

"[This situation] requires from us careful actions, to monitor it very closely and to rally with us all kinds of support that we can acquire. We can't do things on our own because of our limitations, because we are still under Israeli military occupation. We need international support. We start with our Arab brothers, that's why we approach them." Dr Malki said the Palestinian Authority was prepared to work with Ms Livni, if she forms a government, noting that Palestinian officials had been working with Ms Livni as foreign minister and head of the Israeli negotiating team. "We know her and it's better to deal with a person that you know than you don't," he said.

The Palestinian Authority was prepared, meanwhile, to deal with either US presidential candidate. "We have been very close to the two camps," he said, adding that Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, visited Ramallah and met the Palestinian leadership in recent months, while John McCain, the Republican hopeful, had sent some of his advisers to meet Palestinian officials. However, Dr Malki warned both candidates against ignoring the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and then dealing with it towards the end of their presidential terms.

He also said Israeli "extremists" could accelerate the building of settlements in the coming months and that would prevent the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. Israel approved in August the construction of more than 800 homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank, half of them in East Jerusalem. "What I am afraid of is the fact that certain Israeli elements within the Israeli government or outside the government, extremists, might take advantage of the lack of authority in order to introduce new realities on the ground," said Dr Malki.

He emphasised the Palestinian Authority's desire to include all the Palestinian factions in a comprehensive dialogue that is expected to take place in Cairo in the coming weeks. The dialogue is aimed at bringing about reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, the two rival forces in Palestinian politics. mhabboush@thenational.ae