Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki expressed his confidence in the ability of the Palestinians to overcome the existing disputes over postponing the legislative elections.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Maliki noted that this issue has “hastened the launch of the battle of Jerusalem,” emphasizing its “priority with regard to all Palestinian factions.”
The minister, who visited Moscow as part of a European tour, pointed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ proposal to form a government of national unity, saying: “All factions agree that Jerusalem is a red line... But it is important to deal with the situation in good faith and work to unify the Palestinian house in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and to protect Jerusalem, where Israel exploits our division to escalate its violations.”
Maliki continued: “We can overcome all the existing problems by forming a government of national unity. Not all factions… will converge on the same position, and some may go far to exploit the situation to question the leadership and its legitimacy. There are other parties, such as Hamas, which proved their eagerness to end the division during the Istanbul and Cairo meetings.”
While the Palestinian foreign minister emphasized the willingness of Fatah and Hamas to work towards unity, he noted that the two sides did not have enough time to expand the understandings.
“They preferred to go towards the shortest path, which is holding the elections, before completing the adequate preparations. Here, many pitfalls emerged, especially the issue of Jerusalem,” Maliki told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Asked about his European tour and Moscow discussions, the Palestinian foreign minister said that a number of issues were on the agenda, underlining the importance of communication with Russia, especially with regards to Israel’s violations.
“We are counting on Moscow to pressure the Israeli side to stop these ongoing violations, as well as to compel Tel Aviv to abide by the signed agreements that guarantee the holding of Palestinian elections on all territories, including those under Area C, which comprise Jerusalem,” Maliki said.
He continued: “We also rely on a Russian role to influence Israel in the course of advancing the political process, and we support the Russian efforts within the framework of reviving the work of the International Quartet and the invitation made by Minister Sergei Lavrov to hold a meeting of the international group at the ministerial level.”
On whether he was optimistic about efforts to revive the international quartet, Maliki noted a change in the US position after US President Joe Biden assumed office. He said that the quartet held two meetings at the delegates’ level, including one upon an American request.
“Now Lavrov is talking about calling for a meeting at the ministerial level, and this is important. Maturing ideas and restoring confidence between the parties is required. For us, there is no alternative to this framework, because it is the official context adopted within UN Security Council Resolution 1515,” the minister remarked.
Asked whether there was a clear Palestinian plan to pressure Israel at the international level, Maliki said: “The moment the international community is able to oblige Israel to implement its pledges, we will move immediately to set a new date for the elections.”
“We are not trying to evade the elections. In fact, it was President Abbas who launched the idea before the United Nations General Assembly in 2017… At the same time, we have a second option to adress the situation, which President Abbas expressed by calling for the formation of a national unity government based on the principles of the Palestinian Liberation Organization,” he stated.
Maliki explained that the proposed national unity government would work on two tracks. First, strengthening the Palestinian movement and ensuring the mobilization of a supportive international position to escalate pressure on Israel on elections, and second, working to dismantle the foundations of the Palestinian division, its institutions, and its elements.
“Such a national framework will have the ingredients for success in both tracks,” he emphasized.