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Palestinians disappointed by Obama speech

Sept. 21, 2011 8:53 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 24, 2011 1:05 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian officials and analysts were left disappointed by US President Barack Obama's speech to the United Nations on Wednesday, viewing the address as a clear indication of support for Israeli interests.

President Obama rejected Palestinian plans to seek a UN blessing for statehood and urged a return to peace talks with Israel.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the Palestinian presidential spokesman, responded to Obama's speech by saying the Palestinians are ready for negotiations with Israel as long as it halts illegal settlement building and agrees to 1967 borders.

Ahmed Yousef, a deputy in the Hamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Obama is trying to avoid the UN bid and his statements offered nothing new.

He told Ma'an that the speech showed clear bias towards Israel and was an attempt to run away from the UN bid in an effort to avoid embarrassment for the United States.

There is no use in continuing with negotiations if the US can not put enough pressure on Israel to stop illegal settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, he added.

Political analyst Hani al-Masri considered Obama's speech as a clear alignment with the Israeli position and noted that US-Israeli relations were stronger than US relations with all Arab countries, especially at a period of upcoming US elections in 2012.

The Palestinians may demand that the UN Security Council freeze the vote to provide a chance for negotiations over a period of 6 months or one year, a move which would save both Abbas and the US, al-Masri added.

Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies and the Director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, said Obama's speech was an illustration of why US policy has been such an obstacle to a just, lasting peace in the Middle East.

"It was predictably depressing to hear the President laud the new-found freedom of the peoples of South Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, while telling the Palestinians that their freedom depended on their jumping through hoops held up by their Israeli occupiers and their American friends," he said to the Institute for Middle East Understanding, or IMEU.

PFLP leader Jamil Majdalawi said that US President Obama denied the clear reality that negotiations have reached a dead end. Obama's call for negotiations will give Israel an opportunity to change facts on the ground and take more Palestinian land for settlements, he added.

Majdalawi said that Obama's speech should encourage Abbas to continue to head to the UN Security Council and not to retreat from demanding full UN membership.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), had earlier told Reuters that there was a gap in the speech "between praising the struggle of Arab peoples for the sake of freedom and between an abstract call for negotiations between us and the Israelis."

Israel and the United States oppose the idea of a Palestinian UN push, which Israel says is aimed at delegitimizing it. The Palestinians say it will enable direct peace talks to take place between two equal, sovereign states.

Reuters contributed to this report
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