NPR

Some Palestinians Critical Of U.S.-Israel Talks

Palestinian leaders are voicing disappointment with the Obama Administration's apparent reluctance to do more to promote the stalled Mideast peace process. They say the issue is no longer a priority for the U.S.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Iran and its suspect nuclear program was a prominent subject at today's White House summit between President Obama and the Israeli prime minister. Mr. Obama also spoke emphatically about Iran yesterday in his address to AIPAC, the big pro-Israel lobby.

For Palestinians, the president's focus on Iran is a disappointment. As NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports, they complain that the Obama administration is not doing enough to re-invigorate the Middle East peace process.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: What was striking for Palestinians about President Obama's speech yesterday, to a gathering of Israel's supporters, wasn't what was in it. It was what was lacking. Early on in Mr. Obama's presidency, he called on Israel to halt Jewish construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In this speech, there wasn't a single mention of the settlements, or an explicit call for Israel to do more to restart the foundering peace process. Instead, there were repeated pledges of Mr. Obama's support for Israel and its policies. At a press conference in Ramallah, Hanan Ashrawi, the veteran Palestinian negotiator, called it a disappointing address.

DR. HANAN ASHRAWI: We couldn't believe that an American president is out there proving that he's good for Israel; that for three years, he's done everything that Israel wanted. And in many ways, people saw this as demeaning. Why should you defend yourself? Why should you say, I've done everything that you've asked me to do; why don't you love me? I mean, this is the president of the most powerful country still.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ashrawi says the United States can no longer be viewed as an honest broker.

ASHRAWI: Obama is undermining Americans' ability to play a role, even, in the region.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But the topic of the moment is Iran, and the Palestinians are against an Israeli strike on Iran. The have no say in what Israel will or won't do. But they will, Ashrawi says, bear the consequences.

ASHRAWI: Any kind of military adventurism in this part of the world may be easy to start but is going to be impossible to contain. And the ramifications and implications are going to be disastrous

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ashrawi says the Americans, though, aren't listening to their concerns. There is no process in the peace process at the moment. Talks in Jordan sputtered to a halt. The two sides couldn't even agree on a way to reconcile their positions enough to start a negotiation.

Equally, Palestinian moves to gain recognition at the United Nations have gone nowhere - which has left the Palestinian Authority with little leverage, and no real way forward.

Ashrawi referred to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's plan to send a letter to Netanyahu this week as a last-ditch effort to salvage the talks. And in the absence of American engagement in the issue, no one - least of all the Palestinians - is hopeful.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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