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Thursday Dec. 9, 2010 9:53 PM (EST+7)
INTERVIEW: Ashrawi - More Mideast talks futile without US shift

Read more: Hanan Ashrawi, peace talks, settlements, George Mitchell

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Dec 9 (Tom Perry/Reuters) - More Middle East peace talks will be an exercise in futility unless the United States curbs Israeli violations, a leading Palestinian said.

Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran of the 20-year old peace process, faulted the US approach for giving Israel time to expand settlements and deepen its control over the land where the Palestinians aim to found a sovereign state.

I've had enough, said Ashrawi, a member of the delegation which negotiated with Israel for two years from 1991.

This approach has to stop. You cannot keep insulting our intelligence by pretending that you want a process and a two-state solution and then allowing it to be destroyed before our eyes, she said in an interview on Thursday.

It's time they put their money where their mouth is.

The peace process was left in crisis this week when the United States said it had given up its effort to persuade Israel to halt settlement building on land where the Palestinians aim to found their state.

The Palestinians had demanded such a step before any more talks. Israel has blamed the Palestinians, saying a settlement freeze had never been a condition for negotiations before.

Once again, faced with Israeli arrogance and intransigence, the United States backed down, Ashrawi said.

Israel wants the occupation to continue and the Americans helped them buy time to expand, to take over more land, more resources and to make life more difficult for us, she said.

US peace envoy George Mitchell is due in the region next week for another round of diplomacy, the US State Department said on Wednesday, indicating it would continue its efforts.

US attempts to revive the peace process this year produced both indirect and face-to-face negotiations. These were suspended by the Palestinians when Israel refused to extend a moratorium on West Bank settlement building in September.

Washington is now weighing a return to indirect talks.


From the beginning, what they cared about was to get the parties to talk, Ashrawi said. There is really the wrong focus and approach from the beginning. The focus is on process and form rather than substance and objectives, she said.

Ashrawi criticised a US approach guided by the idea that only negotiations between the sides can produce a deal. She called for serious intervention to curb Israeli violations.

More of the same is going to produce more failure, more distrust and more violence and more extremism. If they don't understand this they are not dealing with this world, she said. It's an exercise in futility.

The Middle East policy of the United States and other major powers is based on the idea of a Palestinian state emerging alongside Israel in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, territories occupied in a 1967 war.

We're reaching the point where the two-state solution is no longer applicable. It's going to be difficult, if not impossible, really, Ashrawi said, in reference to the impact of Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Ashrawi took part in two years of negotiations launched in 1991. Her delegation reported to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which began negotiating directly with Israel two years later at the start of the Oslo peace process.

Any negotiations must focus immediately on ending the occupation, she said. Israel, she said, was working to leave the Palestinians as a statelet made up of population centres: Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, all surrounded by settlements.






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