News / Middle East

Palestinian Negotiator Wants Obama to Back Statehood If Talks Fail

A Palestinian official says he expects the Obama administration to support a recognition of Palestinian statehood by the United Nations, if peace talks do not resume with Israel. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat spoke Thursday in Washington at a conference that examined changes in the Middle East.

Palestinian leaders say they are considering asking the United Nations to recognize an independent Palestinian state, following Israel's resumption of settlement building in east Jerusalem.

Erekat says he expects U.S. President Barack Obama to support the idea because of his remarks at the U.N. in September. In a speech to the General Assembly, Mr. Obama said an independent state of Palestine should be able to join the world body next year.

Erekat told a conference at the Middle East Institute that he did not discuss statehood in a meeting earlier in the day with Middle East envoy George Mitchell and other U.S. officials. "I did not talk about it, but I hope the United States of America, when we go to the Security Council to seek a full membership for the State of Palestine, will not oppose this," he said.  

At the State Department, spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States disapproves of unilateral steps by the Palestinians or Israel outside of the peace process.

According to Erekat, U.S. officials told him they need two to three weeks to get the talks going again. Erekat said that to restart the talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to reinstate a settlement construction freeze that expired in September. "The choice is his, settlements or peace. He cannot have both," Erekat said.  

The Palestinian negotiator dismissed the notion that Republican Party gains in Tuesday's U.S. midterm elections would change Washington's stance in the peace process. He noted that Republican presidents have been involved in efforts for Palestinian statehood.  "The first president to recognize the state of Palestine in a two state solution was President [George W.] Bush," he said.  

Some analysts expect that conservative Republicans will pressure the Obama administration to focus more on strengthening the U.S. economy than on some foreign policy issues like Israel and the Palestinians.

Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli negotiator and ambassador to Washington during the 1990s, says that is one of two likely scenarios for President Obama. "The other is that he would take an attitude of 'I may or may not be reelected.  But I need to leave my mark on history, and the Arab-Israeli peace process is one such place,' which would lead to deeper engagement.  And I hope this is the route that he will take," he said.

Although relatively little progress was made in the currently-suspended Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the speakers at the conference said the Middle East is going through a fundamental transformation.

Political scientist Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland said the Iraq war and other post-Cold War developments are creating a tripolar region that excludes Arab capitals. "Even Arab elites feel that the relative clout of Arab states has diminished to the benefit of non-Arab states Israel, Turkey and Iran," Telhami said.

Telhami said he has conducted public opinion surveys asking Arabs to name their heroes and that Arab leaders do not end up in first place. This year, he said, the winner was Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, followed by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video In Cambodian Capital, Political Motives Seen Behind Canceled Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs