Saeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian Negotiator and Secretary General of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) delivers a speech during the Mediterranean Dialogues (MED), a three-day conference on security in the Mediterranean region in Rome. AFP
Islamic State will assume the moral leadership of the Arab world if Israel does not stop crushing Palestinians' hopes of statehood, a senior PLO official warned on Friday.
Saeb Erakat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), told a Rome conference on Mediterranean security that the radical jihadism of Islamic State could only be defeated long-term through a resolution of the Palestinian question and the establishment of democracy in Arab countries.
"Ever since the beginning of Islam there have been people and organisations seeking to use the religion for their own ends. Daesh is number 803," he said.
"You are not going to defeat Daesh with bullets, warplanes and so on."
Erakat said the anger that fuelled support for groups like Islamic State was undermining people like him who had attempt to negotiate peace with Israel and had been treated instead to the expansion of Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank.
"For 23 years I promised Palestinians we would have our freedom and dignity. What did I bring my people? Instead 200,000 settlers we now have 600,000 and an Israeli prime minister who prides himself on saying 'there will be no Palestinian state on my watch'.
"If we go down as Palestinian moderates, if we cannot deliver, mark my words this will be the scenario.
"At the moment ISIS are seen as a causeless bunch of criminal terrorists. Nobody is associating with them.
"If tomorrow they fill the gap of me and (Palestinian president Mahmud) Abbas and they start killing Israelis, who amongst one billion Arabs will be against it?"
Israel's Interior Minister Silvan Shalom said the Jewish state could not contemplate compromising its security by accepting a Palestinian state that would be a threat to it.
"When we try to live in peace with our neighbours we get rockets and missiles," Shalom told the same conference immediately after it had been addressed by Erakat.
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