REPORTING FROM RAMALLAH, WEST BANK –- The Middle East needs "winds of peace" instead of "drums of war," the chief Palestinian negotiator said Tuesday.
Saeb Erekat was commenting on the meeting a day earlier between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and their speeches before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Erekat did not seem worried that the Palestinian issue was overshadowed in the meeting by the conflict over Iran's nuclear program. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains the most destabilizing factor in the Middle East, he said.
"No issue is above the Palestinian issue," he said. "No one can deny the Palestinian issue."
Erekat said Obama spoke about peace without specifying its requirements.
"The prerequisite for peace and stability in the region is to end the Israeli occupation and establish the independent Palestinian state," he said. "The winds of peace will serve the interest of all, and not the drums of war."
He said what the region wants is "a peace plan, not a war plan that will drive the region into more fanaticism and bloodshed."
Erekat criticized Palestinian-bashing by Republican Party presidential hopefuls who are looking for support from the pro-Israel lobby.
"The Palestinian people are being utilized for election purposes," he said. "This is unacceptable and inappropriate."
-- Maher Abukhater