Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Palestinian-US divide widened after the United States backed down on its stands on the need to freeze the Israeli settlement activities before starting political negotiations between Israel and the [Palestinian] Authority. A senior PLO official told Asharq Al-Awsat that Washington had been pressuring Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas for weeks to resume the negotiations without a stop to these activities.
While US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statements which adopted totally the stands of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the issue of construction in the settlements and resumption of negotiations appear to have taken the Palestinians by surprise, PLO Executive Committee member Saleh Rafat told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We were not surprised. They had been pressuring us since the tripartite summit in New York.”
Rafat stressed that “we will never yield to the American pressures and this dangerous US backing down is unacceptable and destroys the peace process. We also reject the US-Israeli deal to continue building 3,000housing units in the West Bank and also continue the construction in Jerusalem and government buildings. This is a frank acceptance of the settlements and undermines the roadmap.” He asserted that “the PLO will call on the Arab countries and the other parties in the Quartet – the EU, Russia, and the United Nations — to continue the pressure on the United States to make it respect its roadmap obligations and Obama’s Cairo speech.” He added: “We have alternatives for continuing the struggle against the settlements and terrorism. We have also urged the Arab Follow-up Committee to meet again after its meeting was postponed earlier at the request of Qatar and Syria, so as to discuss this negative development in the US stand.”