May 29, 2009 - 12:00am

The Palestinians' top negotiator on Friday said he was "encouraged" following President Mahmoud Abbas' White House meeting on Thursday with U.S. President Barack Obama.

"Palestinians are encouraged by the commitment President Obama and his administration have shown to Middle East peace," Saeb Erakat said in a statement early Friday.

In his meeting with Abbas Thursday, Obama had called for a complete freeze of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. Obama also said he shared Abbas' feelings that "time was of the essence" and pledged to do "everything I can" to "jump-start" the peace process with Israel.
"Resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is central to regional stability and peace," Erekat said.

"The establishment of a viable Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security with Israel, and a just resolution to the Palestinian refugee issue in accordance with UN Resolution 194, will create a more secure and stable Middle East," Erekat added.

The Middle East peace process, he warned, would not survive another round of failed negotiations.

"The peace process lives on borrowed time," warned the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiations department, who is also a top official in Abbas' Fatah party.

"Israel's failure to implement its obligations under existing agreements has eroded its credibility, while Israel's continued settlement activities are undermining the very viability of the two-state solution," Erakat said.

Israel has refused the U.S. and Palestinian demand for a complete freeze in settlement activity, pledging not to build new settlements but vowing to continue construction in existing ones to accommodate for "natural growth."

The Netanyahu government has also adopted a policy according to which the Iranian nuclear threat should be given more urgency than the Palestinian issue, while the Obama administration has adopted an opposing view, arguing that progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would help build a moderate Arab coalition against Iran.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017