Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has blasted Tel Aviv for inciting a new wave of Israeli settler violence as part of a culture of vandalism and extremism.
“Settler violence and the wanton destruction of Palestinian property replicate what is being done on a much larger scale by Israel as it pushes ahead with illegal settlement construction across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (al-Quds),” Erekat said in a statement on Wednesday.
“They bring into full view the violence that underpins Israel’s policy of illegal settlement construction and the cost to Palestinians,” he added.
The Palestinian official described Israeli settlers as the direct beneficiaries of Tel Aviv’s policy which encourages occupying Palestinians’ land and demolishing their houses to further expand its “apartheid system that promotes settlements by stripping Palestinians of their basic rights and freedoms.”
“The result is a culture of violence, hatred and extremism in which Israeli settlers, often accompanied by Israeli soldiers, run riot across the West Bank,” Erekat noted.
The remarks come a day after a group of residents from the Israeli settlement of Givat Hayovel uprooted 250 olive tree seedlings planted by Palestinian farmers in the village of Qaryut to mark Earth Day.
On Monday, settlers attacked the General Union of Palestinian Workers’ housing complex in Ein Sinyia, north of Ramallah, destroying water tanks and nearby property.
Israeli settlers also vandalized a mosque in the village of Huwwara last week and painted racist slogans on its walls. They also torched two cars and damaged more than 300 olive trees.
Erekat charged Israeli officials with encouraging extremists “to intimidate and destroy at will, armed with the absurd notion that they have a divine right to steal, to vandalize and to persecute another people.”
He reiterated his criticism of Israel’s refusal to halt expansion of illegal West Bank settlements as “the major obstacle to peace and the greatest threat to the two-state solution.”
The settlements “are a black hole in which hopes of peace are fast disappearing,” he warned.