Friday, January 22, 2010

Obama winds back Expectations for Middle East peace

From Ynet News, 21/1/10:

President Barack Obama said his administration overestimated its ability to persuade the Israelis and Palestinians to resume meaningful peace talks.

...If the US had anticipated that earlier, the American leader said he might not have raised his expectations so high.

..."From (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas' perspective, he's got Hamas looking over his shoulder and, I think, an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process. And on the Israeli front — although the Israelis, I think, after a lot of time showed a willingness to make some modifications in their policies, they still found it very hard to move with any bold gestures," said Obama.

...Obama said the US will continue to work toward a two-state solution in which Israel is secure and the Palestinians have sovereignty.

...Israel and the Palestinians belittled each other's commitment to peace as US envoy George Mitchell began a fresh attempt on Thursday to break the deadlock and get them talking to each other again....

'Palestinians have climbed up a tree'
...Netanyahu attacked the Palestinian leadership for rejecting US calls to relaunch negotiations suspended for over a year. "The Palestinians have climbed up a tree," he said. "And they like it up there. People bring ladders to them. We bring ladders to them. The higher the ladder, the higher they climb."

Diplomats say Mitchell seems to be seeking a face-saving way for Palestinian President Abbas to drop his insistence that Netanyahu must stop all settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem before negotiations can be resumed.

...When Mitchell first visited, the Israeli leader was refusing even to talk about establishing a Palestinian state. But last June he embraced the "two-state solution" and in November he ordered a partial 10-month halt to settlement building.

Western diplomats say Washington now seems increasingly frustrated with Abbas. One, speaking privately, said Abbas "as the weaker partner" was now the focus of US efforts to stir the peace process back to life.

There was an "implicit threat" of cuts in US aid to the West Bank if Abbas held out, he said....

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