WEST BANK: Palestinian reaction to U.S. reversal on settlement freeze
Palestinian politicians and analysts said Wednesday that they were not surprised that the U.S. government had failed to get Israel to agree to a temporary settlement freeze as a precondition for resuming Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. To them, It had only been a matter of time before U.S. officials acknowledged failure.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, strongly criticized Washington, saying the Palestinian Authority was surprised that the U.S. did not openly hold Israel responsible for the failure of the peace talks when it announced that it could not get Israel to stop settlement construction in the Palestinian territories.
“If the U.S. was not able to get Israel to freeze settlements for a limited period in order to hold serious negotiations, how can it get Israel to accept the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders?” Abed Rabbo asked.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has talked about seven alternatives in case negotiations fail. One of them is to get the United States to agree to not veto United Nations a Security Council decision recognizing a Palestinian state within June 5, 1967, borders.
On the other hand, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority’s main rival, accused the United States of favoring Israel and derided its rivals for pursuing negotiations.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in Gaza today that this step “would make the [Israeli] occupiers more daring in committing crimes against the Palestinian people.”
He urged the Palestinian Authority to “re-evaluate its negotiations track, which has proven to be a total failure.” Barhoum said “this is proof that the U.S. is not an honest sponsor of the negotiations and the political process.”
Political analyst and newspaper columnist Hani Masri said that any alternative approaches that involve the United States “will be a waste of time.”
The United States, he said, “is totally biased toward Israel and this bias has increased after the midterm elections for the U.S. Congress.”
Masri suggested peaceful popular resistance to the Israeli occupation as well as suspending the Palestinian Authority’s security cooperation with Israel as long as the stalemate continues.
Hasan Asfour, a former member of the Palestinian negotiating team, said “Washington will not pressure Israel to change its position.”
“Washington will look for a creative way to return to negotiations without stopping settlements,” he said.
The Palestinians, he explained, will not accept this because going back on the Palestinian demand for total settlement freeze “will be a political disaster.”
-- Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank