PA's Erekat slams Obama for neglecting Palestinians in speech to UN

Senior Palestinian official says Obama cannot hope to bring stability to the Middle East without addressing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

September 28, 2015 22:05
2 minute read.
Saeb Erekat

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat expressed disappointment in US President Barack Obama for failing to mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his speech to the UN General Assembly on Monday.

"Does President Obama believe he can defeat ISIS and terrorism, or achieve security and stability in the Middle East, by ignoring the continued Israeli occupation,  settlement expansion and the continued attacks on al-Aksa Mosque?" official Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted Erekat as asking.

In his speech to the UN in 2013,  Obama outlined what were then his primary foreign policy goals: "In the near term," he said, "America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the Arab-Israeli conflict."

"While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace," he continued.

Since that time, Obama's secretary of state, John Kerry, has pursued diplomatic initiatives on both fronts. A nine-month peace process brokered by Kerry between Israel and the Palestinians failed to produce results, but a deal capping Iran's nuclear program for fifteen years was agreed upon in July of this year.

The next year, in 2014, Obama placed some blame for that diplomatic failure on the withering will of the Israeli public. Violence engulfing the Middle East has made “too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace,” he said. "That’s something worthy of reflection, within Israel."

Obama made no mention of Israel or the Palestinians in this year's speech.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was set to make his own address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. He has previously said that he would drop "a bombshell" at the end of his speech, without providing further explanation.

Abbas told Palestine TV on Sunday that he raised three issues during his talks with world leaders on the sidelines of the General Assembly session in New York: ongoing tensions on the Temple Mount, Israel’s “failure” to implement agreements with the Palestinians and the revival of the peace negotiations with Israel.

Abbas said the world must pay attention to what is happening at the Temple Mount, warning that the situation could lead to “catastrophes.” He accused Israel of working toward turning the political conflict into a religious one.

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