Last updated: 6 March, 2012

Palestinians irked at being ignored in Obama talks

The Palestinians on Tuesday attacked US President Barack Obama and Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu for largely ignoring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during talks this week.

The two met at the White House on Monday for talks which focused largely on the prospects of a military operation to halt Iran’s nuclear drive, which much of the West sees as a drive for weapons.

With Iran topping the agenda, there was only a passing mention of the Israel-Palestinian conflict which until now, has played a central role in all previous talks between the two leaders.

“We know that Netanyahu went to Washington with a plan for war and not for peace,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told reporters in Ramallah.

Fear, he warned, was “the source of instability in the region, and it will push people towards violence and extremism.”

Israel has warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state and destabilise the entire region, but Erakat said that failing to resolve the decades-old conflict would be dangerous.

“The key to peace, to stability and prosperity, is the draining of the swamp of the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” he said.

“The pursuit of the occupation is the cause of wars and extremism and this reality should be taken into account in the circles of power in the West,” he added.

Direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been on hold since late September 2010, when they broke down shortly after they started in a dispute over Jewish settlement building.

The Palestinians say they will not return to talks without an Israeli freeze on settlement construction and clear parameters setting the lines that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War as the basis for talks on borders.

Israel has declined those requests and says it wants talks without preconditions.