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US tilting toward Israel inhibits peace talks in Middle East

China Daily | Updated: 2018-09-12 09:39
A Palestinian protester carries a boy as he runs from tear gas fired by Israeli soldiers during a protest near the border with Israel in Gaza Strip on Monday. AFELIPE DANA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON - The US government's decision to close the Palestine Liberation Organization's office in Washington, stepping up pressure on the Palestinians, revealed Washington's obvious siding with Israel, a stance that could further undermine the already derailed Middle East peace process, said US experts on Monday.

The Palestinian Authority said that it will not abandon its principles following the US decision to close the office.

The spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said the Palestinian Authority will maintain its "commitment to the resolutions of international legitimacy", according to a written statement released on Monday.

He said key issues, including the status of Palestinian refugees, "are more important than the relationship with the United States".

The US State Department announced the decision to shut down the mission in a statement released on Monday noon, citing the Palestinians' lack of "steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel", and accusing the PLO leadership of refusing to engage in a US peace plan "they have not yet seen".

US experts on international relations see the Palestinians' rejection of US mediation as an outcome of distrust and disillusionment over the US government's undisguised support for Israel.

The PLO believes these talks are completely one-sided and the United States has tilted clearly in favor of Israel, Darrell West, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution, said.

"So it (the PLO) no longer views America as a neutral arbiter of Mideast peace talks. The American action is in retaliation against the PLO stance," the expert added.

The US government is "looking for ways to play hardball with the PLO," noted Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.

"But so much of the relationship between the US and the PLO is now clouded by the US decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem," the scholar said.

The US recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December last year, an unconventional step announced by President Donald Trump himself that sparked global outcry and dissuaded the furious Palestinians from participating in talks mediated by Washington.

Earlier this year, the US government launched a string of funding cuts against the Palestinian to push them back to the negotiating table with Israel.

US media reported on Saturday that the US government "will be redirecting approximately $25 million originally planned for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network. Those funds will go to high-priority projects elsewhere".

For 40 years, it was "never seen any administration simultaneously support Israel so uncritically and go after Palestinians so harshly both with logic, purpose or national security rationale," said Aaron David Miller, a scholar from the Washington-based think tank Wilson Center, in a tweet.

"This isn't only about pressuring Palestinians; it's about changing US policy," added Miller, who also has worked on Arab-Israeli negotiations at the US State Department for more than two decades.

"It could lead other nations to doubt American leadership and turn to other nations for impartial mediation," West said.

Xinhua - Ap

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