Officials from the Palestinian Authority welcomed news that US President Barack Obama would visit the region in the coming months, and called on the White House to use the trip to push for an end to settlement construction Wednesday.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the leadership in Ramallah was expecting the visit to be accompanied by a new push for the peace process.
“The visit is a positive indicator, but we need deeds and real US pressure on Israel rather than meetings. We need a new US policy,” he said.
Washington and Jerusalem confirmed Tuesday that Obama would pay a visit to the region in the coming weeks. The White House has said the trip is not for a new peace push but to reaffirm ties and discuss regional issues, but some Israeli officials have signaled otherwise.
Abu Rudeineh told the Palestinian Ma’an news agency he hoped Obama would use the trip to pressure Israel into ending settlement construction in the West Bank and pushing for a Palestinian state.
“We wish the US administration will exert pressure on Israel to stop settlement expansion in order to lay the ground for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territory within the borders before June 4, 1967,” he said.
Direct talks between Israel and the PA have been frozen since September 2010, at the tail end of a 10-month settlement building moratorium. Israel says it is willing to return to the negotiation table, but Abbas insists settlement construction must end as a precondition to talks.
The election of a new Israeli Knesset has led to speculation of a new peace initiative being brought forward in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu’s next term. The visit by Obama, who said he would not travel to Israel until he could move something forward by doing so, is thought by some to be timed to coincide with the formation of the new government.
Palestine Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi released a statement Wednesday calling on Obama to end support for Israel if he wanted to bring peace to the region.
“Maintaining Israel’s impunity and sense of exceptionalism, while denying the Palestinian people’s rights to sovereignty, freedom and dignity, has been lethal to any meaningful pursuit of a viable and just peace,” she wrote.
However, a Fatah official told UAE newspaper The National that Ramallah was not expecting the Obama visit to lead to any major changes.
“None of us are expecting a change to the status quo,” the unnamed Fatah member said.