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Middle East

US disqualified as peacebroker, PLO's Ashrawi says ahead of Obama visit

media Hanane Ashrawi, PLO former peace process spokseperson Reuters/Stephanie Mcgehee

Israeli and Palestinian officials are currently in Washington to plan the details of Barack Obama’s first visit to the West Bank and Israel during his presidency. The Palestinians want to press the US president to take a stand on Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

Palestinian officials Saeb Erekat and negotiator Mohammad Shtayyeh stated that they intend to clarify “the Palestinian position” to Washington, focusing on West Bank settlement construction, during the visit.

Yet Hanan Ashrawi, one of the leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), has told RFI  that the Palestinian leadership is not feeling positive about either the administration or the outcome of the trip.

At the start of the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Obama’s visit will focus on three topics: Iran, Syria and negotiations with the Palestinians.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

Speaking exclusively to RFI, Ashrawi, a former Palestinian spokesperson for the Middle East peace process, said that the Palestinian leadership is not hopeful that Obama’s visit will advance negotiations.

“Our experience has been really tragic with this American administration," she said. "We started with such high hopes and tremendous promises. They backed down so quickly it was incredible.

"It was a dizzying speed, you know? For the last four years they have just managed to buy more time for Israel. The US has disqualified itself as a peace-broker.”

Ashrawi was also pessimistic about the possibility that a new Israeli coalition would bring talks.

“it’s not enough to say 'I want negotiations', or 'I want a two-state solution'," she declared. "Even Netanyahu says that. Negotiations are just a pretext to buy more time to create more facts on the ground. Now Yesh Atid [the new secular party that scored well in the Israeli election] might say we want negotiations. 

"But we want to keep Jerusalem and we want to annexe the settlement clusters. So what kind of peace are you talking about?”

For its part, the Obama administration has said it does not intend to use the trip to propose new ideas to overcome the two-year deadlock in negotiations.

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