WEST BANK: Palestinian Authority upset over Ahmadinejad's criticism of Mideast peace talks
For a long time, statements by Iranian leaders about the Palestinian conflict have upset the Palestinian Authority and drew harsh criticism. This was evident again on Saturday, as the Palestinian Authority reacted to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's criticism of its participation in last week's Washington meeting with Israel to reopen peace talks.
Ahmadinejad lambasted Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas for meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He said Abbas was a hostage of Israel and that the talks were doomed.
For Abbas, the talks renewed hope for resumption of the long-stalled Middle East peace process. But for Iran, the talks were seen as part of a U.S.-backed, Israeli-led strategy to further isolate it.
Ever since Iran backed Islamist movement Hamas, the Palestinian Authority's arch enemy, when it kicked seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, the country has been one of Abbas' enemies.
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh lashed out at Ahmadinejad, charging that he "does not represent the Iranian people" and accusing him of "forging elections" and "suppressing the Iranian people."
A person who is like this, Rudeineh said, "is not entitled to talk about Palestine or the president of Palestine who is the elected president of free and fair elections."
Reacting to the Palestinian Authority's criticism of Ahmadinejad, a Palestinian critic of the PA on Sunday wrote that resumption of direct negotiations "is not only aimed at isolating Iran, but at setting up an anti-Iran axis to attack it."
Zakaria Muhammad, a well-known writer, said that since the Washington talks "are directly related to the threat to Iran's security, why would the PA be surprised to hear Iran damning these talks and worried about their effect on its security?"
He said the Palestinian Authority would have done better if it had made clear to Iran that it would not be part of a plot to attack it.
"But it did not do this. Instead it faced Iran's bullets with mortar fire. This will definitely satisfy the U.S. and Israel," Muhammad wrote.
-- Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank