Posted by on July 27, 2010 in Blog

According to press accounts, a senior US envoy has warned Palestinian President Abbas that he must quickly engage in direct negotiations with Israel if he wants President Obama’s help in the establishment of a Palestinian state. If this account is true,it would mark yet another unfortunate diversion of US pressure in the wrong direction.

Last year, the Obama administration kicked off its efforts to achieve Middle East peace with the demand for a temporary suspension of illegal Israeli settlement building on occupied Palestinian lands. Having failed to secure its minimal requests from Israel, the Obama administration turned its pressure onto the Palestinians to engage in indirect talks with Israel despite the absence of a settlement freeze, with the understanding that real “progress” must be achieved by these indirect talks before moving to direct negotiations between the parties. Once again, the Obama administration is falling back on its commitment, and is now demanding that Palestinian President Abbas engage in direct negotiations despite the total absence of any progress in the indirect negotiations, or any signs of intent on behalf of Israel to negotiate in good faith.

Palestinian's reluctance to engage in direct talks under current conditions stems from their experience with the failed peace process of the 1990s, when the negotiations were a mere symbolic exercise which Israel used to buy time while it expanded settlements and unilaterally reshaped the reality on the ground. Today, the Palestinians find themselves in a similar position, under pressure to negotiate while Israel continues imposing its facts on the ground with no regard for the substance of the negotiations.

Appearing on Viewpoint a couple of weeks ago, PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi criticized the Obama administration’s exclusive concern for Israeli and American domestic considerations to the exclusion of Palestinian domestic needs. She warned that continued pressure from the Obama administration onto Abbas to engage in direct negotiations without yielding any progress could lead to the Palestinian national leadership’s “political suicide.”