Amid Iran war of words, Palestinians are forgotten

By NOAH BROWNING | REUTERS ARABNEWS

RAMALLAH, West Bank: A monumental wooden chair erected in Ramallah to symbolize the Palestinians’ sought-after United Nations seat collapsed this week after months of wind and rain. Bulldozers quietly took away the shattered remains by night.

It’s collapse and stealthy removal could well serve as an emblem of Palestinian hopes for statehood.

For the first time in years, meetings this week between US and Israeli leaders were largely silent on the long-stalled peace process. Debate between Israel and Washington over a military strike on Iran knocked Israel-Palestinian peace talks to the bottom of Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu’s agenda.

“The Israeli government has a strategy: to maintain the status quo… We say that we won’t accept the rules of this game,” said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

But to the frustration of many ordinary Palestinians, there is no other game. Riven by internal quarrels, the Palestinians are struggling to make their voice heard. World attention has shifted to the US presidential elections, the escalating violence in Syria and Iran’s nuclear program.

Palestinian officials have said for weeks they are drafting a formal ultimatum to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stating longstanding grievances and repeating demands for a halt to all Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank as a precondition for a resumption of talks that broke down in 2010.

The Israelis will certainly reject the demands, if they ever arrive, and will face no international pressure to back down, with world attention fixed firmly on the Iranian nuclear row.

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