Senior Palestinians have voiced dismay at the apparent lack of attention to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse during Washington talks between Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.
A member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization Monday expressed disappointment that the stalled Mideast peace process appears to be taking a back seat in Washington talks.
Hanan Ashrawi said remarks President Obama made on Sunday before his meeting with the Israeli prime minister Monday did not present a vision for the future of peace in the Middle East. She blamed that on the U.S. presidential campaign.
"It seems to me that by pledging allegiance to Israel, every candidate for the [U.S.] presidency has in many ways seen that this is the way to get elected in the U.S," she stated.
In a Sunday speech to the American Jewish political lobby AIPAC, President Obama highlighted the threat that would be posed by a nuclear-armed Iran -- and said his government would defend Israel in any conflict.
"A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel's security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States," Obama said. "Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."
Ashrawi expressed regret that Obama did not focus on the stalled negotiations aimed at ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which many see as a root cause of much of the instability in the Middle East. "Many things Israel is doing, particularly the occupation are detrimental," she stated. "Not just to the Palestinians, not just to the Israeli moral fiber, but also to the American interests and standing and credibility."
Ashrawi said the confrontation with Iran has diverted international attention from broader issues. "We feel offended because the issue has become Iran and war-mongering. Now what strengthens extremism and violence in our part of the world? The ongoing injustice done to the Palestinians, the perpetuation of this occupation [of Palestinian territory]," she said.
Ashrawi said the Israeli-Palestinian impasse is being used by extremists to recruit terrorists and sow instability.
International mediators have been trying to re-start direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. But the efforts have stalled.
The Palestinians say if there is no progress they will adopt other measures, such as seeking full membership in the United Nations and launching peaceful protests against the Israeli government.