Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands on Tuesday. President Barack Obama had first met separately with each.
So much for President Obama’s hopes to make progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this week. After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama had little to show for his time with the two leaders beyond the symbolic level of a tentative handshake to open their discussion at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. —KA
A final burst of White House activity over the preceding 24 hours failed to close the diplomatic gap between Abbas and Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister rebuffed a US call for a total freeze on Jewish settlement on the West Bank. Abbas refused to resume negotiations without such a freeze.
Both blamed the other for the failure of the US peace initiative.
US frustration showed when Obama told reporters: “Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon. It is past time to talk about starting negotiations. It is time to move forward.”
The US negotiator, George Mitchell, who spent a fruitless week in the Middle East last week shuttling between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, is to return next week to the region for further talks.