News / Middle East

Palestinians Accuse Netanyahu of Killing Peace Process

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio looks on at right as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 24, 2011
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio looks on at right as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 24, 2011
Luis Ramirez

Palestinian officials are accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of killing the peace process and say they will move ahead with plans to go to the United Nations in September to seek full membership of a Palestinian state. 

The Palestinian leadership had hoped that Netanyahu might make concessions on borders and other key issues during his trip to the United States.

That did not happen. In Washington, the Israeli leader said his government is willing to make what he said are painful compromises for peace, but he made no commitment to abide by President Barack Obama's calls for a peace deal based on pre-1967 armistice lines and land swaps.

In remarks on Israeli army radio Wednesday, Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official, accused the Israeli Prime Minister of killing the peace process that has already been stalled since last year.

"Mr. Netanyahu yesterday destroyed any small hope that existed that there will be a resumption of the peace talks," he said.

Public opinion polls in Israel showed Netanyahu's approval rating has jumped following his U.S. visit.

Newspapers Wednesday spoke of how the Israeli leader was received with standing ovations during his trip to the United States.

"The Israelis are these days not spoiled with love stories like this in the world," said Akiva Eldar, a senior columnist with the Tel Aviv newspaper, Haaretz. "We're getting more and more criticism and here you go to the American Congress and you see your leader getting so much love."

Analysts say the boost in popularity gives Netanyahu less of an incentive to change his policies.

For their part, the Palestinians say they are moving ahead with plans to go to the United Nations in September to apply for full membership as a Palestinian state. In the meantime, activists say they plan more nonviolent demonstrations.

Akiva Eldar believes that by sticking to the status quo, Netanyahu has started a countdown to a showdown in September.

"The Israelis are worried that the day after [while] nothing will actually change on the ground, the Palestinian people will react and they will try to impose this change," he said. "I think what the Israelis are mostly worried about is that it will be a nonviolent struggle.  They know how to deal with terrorism. They know how to deal with violence. They don't have much experience in dealing with a nonviolent struggle."

Earlier this month, thousands of Palestinians marched on checkpoints along the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and along fences dividing the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and Syria, as well as along Israel's border with Lebanon.

The marches were supposed to be nonviolent, but resulted in the deaths of a number of Palestinians after demonstrators confronted Israeli security forces with rocks and firebombs.

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