By Meredith Lee-Clark
Impunity Water Reporter, Middle East
NEW YORK, United States – A day after the leaders of the United States, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories, many on all sides have expressed doubts that the meeting will result in productive peace negotiations.
On September 23, U.S. President Barack Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Despite efforts by U.S. Mideast Envoy George Mitchell, the Obama Administration was unable to secure an agreement by Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinian negotiators have demanded a settlement freeze as a pre-condition to any peace talks.
President Obama has begun to change tack in his efforts to restart peace negotiations, now focusing on the status of Jerusalem, the so-called “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, and the borders of a future Palestinian state. One international observer characterized President Obama’s efforts at the U.N. as completely unproductive.
“We’re in a corner,” said Zakaria al Qak, the foreign affairs director at Al-Quds University. “Obama is running out of steam. He was expected to set the direction in the first six months. But now it’s the politics of no choice, of deadlock.”
The Israeli Prime Minister appeared to be more optimistic about the possibility of progress.
“The president said let’s come and resume the peace process without preconditions. As you know I have been saying that for nearly six months,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu to Israeli television.
Other Israelis seemed more downbeat.
“This is a mood of resignation, of quiet despair that there is really [no] way out of the conflict,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of Israeli pro-peace group J Street.
Many Palestinians have considered President Obama’s insistence on moving forward with peace talks as backing off from the President’s call for a settlement freeze. Hamas, the ruling Palestinian party in the Gaza Strip, condemned President Obama’s call to resume the peace talks without an agreement on a settlement freeze.
One Palestinian put a positive gloss on the situation:
“It is clear that Obama will not accept failure of his political investment in dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict,” wrote columnist Talal Okal in the newspaper al-Ayyam.
For more information, please see:
Ha’aretz – Netanyahu: No Peace Until Palestinians Accept Israel as Jewish State – 24 September 2009
Jerusalem Post – Hamas Slams Obama for Backing Down on Demand for Settlement Freeze – 24 September 2009
Reuters – All-round Pessimism After Dud Middle East “Summit” – 24 September 2009
Ha’aretz – Obama Tells UN: We Do Not Accept Israeli Settlements – 23 September 2009
New York Times – White House Pivots on Mideast Peace Bid – 23 September 2009