Dashing the president’s hopes to restart the peace process, Palestinian leaders said they would not talk to Israel until there is a “total settlement freeze.” Obama has been pushing for just that, but recently indicated a willingness to compromise. In the words of one Fatah leader: “I would say, Mr. Obama, we love you … but I am sorry, this is not enough. …”

The obstacle, of course, is Israel’s conservative government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister has pushed for the “natural growth” of existing settlements, a loophole that would allow continued expansion into Palestinian territory in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He has come under fire both in Europe and the U.S., but Obama’s apparent willingness to play ball makes it appear that Netanyahu’s stubbornness has paid off. — PS

Reuters via Yahoo:

[Nabil Shaath, former foreign minister and a Fatah Central Committee member] said Palestinians had met their commitments under the 2003, U.S.-backed “road map” to peace, including curbing violence against Israel, but that Israel had failed to meet its by extending its colonization of territory in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it seized in the Middle East war of 1967.

“A total settlement freeze and a commitment to an independent Palestinian state will bring us back to the negotiating table immediately,” Shaath said.

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