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Palestinian leaders respond to Netanyahu’s Congress speech

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Last week when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Congress in hopes of blocking a possible nuclear deal with Iran he did not mention the Palestinians once. To officials in the West Bank, this omission showed Netanyahu would rather the occupation stay invisible.

As Netanyahu addressed Congress, high-ranking Palestinian officials were busy trying to gain momentum from the international community on a series of on-going initiatives. The Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Central Committee, Executive Committee and Fatah Council all held day long meetings in Ramallah and the agenda was full: they discussed plans to file a war crimes case against Israel over settlements and the summer war in Gaza, launch a boycott campaign against Israeli consumer goods from shops in the West Bank, seek another resolution at the Security Council and more daringly, announced the end to security coordination with the Israeli military. Between the discussions, some senior officials made statements about Netanyahu’s speech. They were miffed that he did not talk about them and many also decried what they viewed as a call for war on Iran. In their view Iran was a distraction to the issue at hand, the occupation that they live under.

Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat said, “In his speech, Mr. Netanyahu wanted to shift the attention from the core of the conflict by not mentioning Palestine. It seems that the impunity granted to Israel by the U.S. Congress allows him to continue violating Palestinian rights without fearing any response. We also declare that Palestine supports a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, and in order to achieve that goal, Israel must allow the presence of international teams to check on Israel’s nuclear facilities.”

Dr.Mustafa Barghouti, the head of the Palestine National Initiative, said Netanayhu was “selling an old product that no one is buying, he is selling fear.” Dr. Barghouti and his party represent Palestinians immersed in the non-violent struggle, weekly protests against Israel’s separation wall. His group has tried to diversify the Palestinian struggle, where the grassroots can participate when collapsed negotiations yield little hope.

“It is really amazing how such a man has the guts to stand in front of congress in and the entire world with out mentioning the Palestinian issue, the most important issue for Israelis,” he said.

Spokesperson for the PLO Ashraf Khatib added, “It will be a mistake to give it [the speech] much importance. Netanyahu went to Washington because he has started an election campaign and he wants to inflate the region with more tension, and his agenda is an agenda of war.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the speech indirectly. Last week he did weigh in on Israel’s upcoming elections on March 17th. Netanyahu’s Iran talk was regarded as campaign plug, although Israeli polls showed he made little gains from the internationally televised event. Abbas took a lighter tone than other Palestinian officials, “At this time Israel wants to put everything in hold because of the elections. It is unfortunate that Israel is doing this. But I say clearly and plainly that we have no business with the Israeli elections and we do not wish to express own view on whom we wish to be the next Prime Minister of Israel. Whomever the Israeli people will elect we will consider a peace partner and negotiate with,” he said on Thursday.

Yet future negotiations seem unlikely. On Sunday Netanyahu’s Likud party published a pamphlet relaying that the prime minister is done with supporting any sort of Palestinian statehood. The reason, like Netanyahu’s Congress speech, was Iran.

“[T]he situation that has arisen in the Middle East, any evacuated territory would fall into the hands of Islamic extremism and terror organizations supported by Iran. Therefore, there will be no concessions or withdrawals, they are simply irrelevant,” the pamphlet said.

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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7 Responses

  1. Sycamores on March 9, 2015, 3:27 pm

    so Netanyahu is saying that the two state solution is ‘simply irrelevant’.

  2. seafoid on March 9, 2015, 3:59 pm

    How can anyone in the reality based community be expected to comment on Netanyahu speeches?

  3. Eva Smagacz on March 9, 2015, 6:14 pm

    I found this gem in The Tunis Times:

    • just on March 9, 2015, 6:28 pm

      Thanks, Eva!

    • Kay24 on March 9, 2015, 9:44 pm

      Brilliant. They have captured the entire circus in a couple of minutes. I like the part where the tyrant of Tel Aviv orders the congress to stand/sit at his command. Heh.

  4. Kay24 on March 10, 2015, 6:25 am

    This is why perhaps Cotton has taken the leadership in writing to the Iranians and trying to derail those negotiations between Iran and the other nations. Usually, one must follow the money trail to find out why some American leaders show such morbid loyalty to Israel, and even go against their own nation.

    “The people who helped lay the groundwork for the war in Iraq have a favorite candidate for today’s midterm election, and that candidate is Rep. Tom Cotton (R) from Arkansas’ 4th congressional district, who is challenging Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) for his Senate seat.

    According to newly released FEC filings, Cotton received $960,250 in supportive campaign advertising in the last month from the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), a right-wing group headed by the neoconservative pundit, Bill Kristol, who infamously predicted that the Iraq war would last two months. At its inception, the ECI was based out of the same Washington office as the Committee of the Liberation of Iraq, a pressure group that lobbied for the 2003 invasion.

    The credibility of Kristol and his neoconservative colleagues was seriously put into question after it was revealed that the war they lobbied for since the time of the Clinton administration failed to turn up weapons of mass destruction.

    Yet Cotton has received the endorsement of the neoconservative fringe of the Republican Party, earning him a gushing profile from Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin before he even began his term as a freshman congressman in January of last year.”

  5. Citizen on March 11, 2015, 9:25 am

    Must be on-going mental anguish for Palestinian Americans to watch this on-going American indifference to them, to US taxes going to support Israeli oppression and theft. 80% of America is Christian, people claiming to love Jesus & his model ways. Sermon on the Mount, etc. Culturally, Americans are weened on favoring the underdog.

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