RAMALLAH, (Xinhua): One Palestinian official said Sunday that they are more despaired after U.S. President Barack Obama said that he would not present a new Mideast peace initiative or request Israel to halt settlement activities in the Palestinian territories.
Wassel Abu Yousef, an official in Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), told Xinhua on Sunday that “everyone should notice that the vows and stances of President Obama concerning Israeli settlement, which is the most pressing issue concerning the future of the conflict, had gone in vain.”
In an interview aired on the Israeli Chanel II Television, Obama ruled out that he would ask Israel to freeze settlement construction in the Israeli settlement, adding “We had overcome the situation of preconditions.” He also ruled out presenting a new initiative to push forward the stalled peace talks.
However, Obama, who will arrive in Israel on Wednesday and will hold separate meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, said that Israel needed to ask herself if its settlements in the West Bank made it difficult or easy for the Palestinian moderates to get back to the negotiations table.
“It is obvious that the U.S. is not serious or interested to pressure on Israel to halt settlement. It also puts other regional issues on the top of its priority, at the expense of the Palestinian cause, something that obliged us not to count too much on this visit,” said Abu Yousef.
The PLO official stressed that the Palestinian position concerning the resumption of the peace talks “is clear and firm,” adding “We refuse to resume any peace negotiations with Israel before Israel halts settlement, in which the international community admitted that it is illegal.”
Meanwhile, Abdul Hadi Hantash, the Palestinian expert in settlement affairs in the West Bank, told Xinhua that “When Obama’ s limousine drives through the road that links between Jerusalem and Ramallah; he should open his eyes and look from the window and see how settlement had significantly grew.”
“Israeli settlement occupied around 65 percent of the West Bank territory and turns its towns and cities into small isolated cantons without any geographical connection. Israeli settlement completely undermines the principle of the two-state solution that the United States is adopting,” said Hantash.
Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and around east Jerusalem was the main reason for halting the peace negotiations in October 2010. The Palestinian side halted the talks in protest of the expansion of settlement, just four weeks after Washington sponsored it.
The Palestinians said that the ongoing settlement activities on their lands are the main reason for the stalemate in the Middle East peace process. When Obama arrived in Ramallah on Thursday to meet with President Mahmoud Abbas, he would clearly notice and see how bigger Israeli settlement became.
On the adjacent Israeli settlements to the city, which can be clearly seen from the office of President Abbas, is Beit Aeil. Several weeks ago, Israeli government decided to expand it with 90 more housing units, which outraged the Palestinian leaders.
Beit Aeil is one of 144 Israeli settlements built in the West Bank and around east Jerusalem, the part of the city that was occupied by Israel since 1967. More than half a million settlers live there.
In 2009, when Obama visited Egypt and addressed his historic speech to the Muslims and Arabs from Cairo University, he called for a new start, and he reiterated that his country doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of settlement and that it’s time to completely halt settlement, a request rejected by Israel.
In response to the expansion of the settlement and the freeze of the peace process, the Palestinian leadership threatened of going for other diplomatic and popular actions, such as upgrading the Palestinian representation in the United Nations and intensifies the peaceful popular resistance against Israel.
An official Palestinian source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Xinhua that the Palestinian leadership expects that Obama would exert pressure on the Palestinians not to join various UN organizations, mainly the legal ones in The Hague, in order to block any attempt to sue Israel.
Ahmed Rafqi Awad, the political science professor at Beir Zeit University in the West Bank, told Xinhua that the U.S. negligence of expanding Israeli settlement is a clear message to the Palestinians that they must live with Israeli settlements.
“Obama visits here and closes his eye before the increasing settlement in the West Bank. He doesn’t want to seriously discuss it with Israel as if he wants to tell the Palestinians, ‘You should accept the occupation of your lands and forget about all your legitimate rights,’” said Awad.