The future of peace on the Middle East depends on whether Israel chooses to really become a part of the region, Palestine’s ambassador to the United States said Thursday.
Maen Rashid Areikat, chief representative of the general delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United States, was visiting Omaha to speak at the Global Studies Conference at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He was scheduled to deliver the keynote talk Thursday evening after meeting with a group of UNO students.
Areikat, said he is optimistic about the possibility of renewed peace talks between Israel and Palestine, but he believes Israelis need to do more to reach a compromise that makes sense for Palestinians and their neighbors in the Middle East.
“It’s Israel’s choice today to continue to aspire to be part of Europe and the West... or does it really want to integrate itself into the Middle East?” Areikat said. “That conflict, I think, is going to be very crucial in determining the future of Israel and its relations with its neighbors.”
Areikat was born in Jericho and came to college in the United States. Before becoming ambassador, he spent five years at Orient House, the headquarters of the PLO in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Negotiating Team to the Madrid peace talks. He also spent 11 years at the Negotiations Affairs Department of the PLO in Ramallah.
Areikat said it’s his first trip to Nebraska, and he met with a group of business leaders while in Omaha. He encouraged them to consider themselves “Americans of Palestinian origin,” saying they’d be able to make the most impact that way.
When I speak to my community, I say it’s very important for Americans to see who we are and what we are, to know that we have a culture, a history, other aspects than the political struggle we have,” Areikat said.
He said the experience especially of the American Jewish community, which has risen to power and influence in such a short time, should serve as a model for Palestinian-Americans who want their friends and neighbors to better understand what’s at stake in the fight for land and independence.
“Issues like that find resonance in Americans because they are fair-minded people,” Areikat said. “Americans always support the underdog, except in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”