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    » 09/23/2009, 00.00

    ISRAEL – PALESTINE

    For Obama talks between Israel and Palestine are urgent, but no one is budging



    Pressures by the US president are not generating any response from Netanyahu or Abbas. Both have domestic problems with allies. West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements remain the hardest obstacle to overcome.
    New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) – US President Barak Obama has called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to act with a "sense of urgency" in restarting stalled peace talks, but their reaction has been one of scepticism and unwillingness to budge.

    In a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister, Obama said that talks “must begin and begin soon.”

    The meeting was meant to bring together Israeli and Palestinian leaders for the first time since Israel’s election in order to jumpstart the peace process that was interrupted by last December’s war in Gaza.

    Since then the US president has appointed George Mitchell as his special envoy to reopen the dialogue on unresolved issues—land, borders, East Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees—but neither side appears to be willing to move.

    Israeli government secretary Zvi Herzog said the talks were "a step in the right direction", but that conditions were "not ripe for a formal re-launch of negotiations".

    Last week, a senior Palestinian official suggested his side was taking part so as not to disappoint the US and that doing so did not mean a resumption of peace talks.

    Disagreements over settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have blocked all attempts to restart the peace talks so far.

    US and Palestinian negotiators have said Israel must fully halt work on settlements construction, something Israel has refused to do.

    Mr Netanyahu had initially offered a temporary freeze for several months, but not in East Jerusalem, arguing that "natural growth" of settler families must be accommodated.

    Both Netanyahu and Abbas faced domestic challenges. His Likud party and its ally, Yisrael Beiteinu, back West Bank settlements, and refuse any territorial compromise that could lead to a Palestinian state.

    Abbas instead needs the talks to yield concrete results to counter the influence Hamas, which remains on bent on armed struggle against Israel.

    The three leaders are in New York for the opening of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

    Obama said that Mitchell would meet negotiators from both sides next week.

    “We have substantially and significantly progressed in reducing the number of issues on which there is disagreement,” Mitchell said as he commented the New York meeting.

    By contrast, neither Netanyahu nor Abbas released any official statement about the meeting.

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    See also

    21/09/2009 ISRAEL – PALESTINE – US
    Few expect much from meeting between Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas
    The White House cautions against expecting too much, speaks of an opportunity to bring the three leaders together. For Israelis, it is a “photo opportunity”; for the Palestinians it is a way to show the Americans who is blocking the peace process.

    10/03/2010 ISRAEL – PALESTINE – US
    UN and US slam new East Jerusalem settlements
    Generally negative reactions greet Israeli Interior Minister’s announcement, which comes at a time when US vice president is in the country to re-launch the peace process. Inside Israel, criticism is heated. For the Kadima party, it sets “a new record for diplomatic stupidity.” Palestinians call for concerted reaction by Arab countries.

    18/11/2009 ISRAEL – PALESTINE
    As Palestinian homes get demolished, new Israeli housing units are built
    Twenty-four homes are demolished in Al-Isawiya. The expansion of the illegal settlements of Gilo (home to 40,000 Israelis) makes a contiguous Palestinian state nearly impossible. For Ban Ki-moon, such actions undermine peace. The US reacts timidly following Obama’s about-turn.

    26/11/2009 ISRAEL - PALESTINE
    Netanyahu proposal on Israeli settlements a "deception"
    The Israeli premier halts settlement construction for 10 months, but rules out restrictions on the natural growth of existing settlements. Even the settlements around East Jerusalem are exempt from restrictions. According to the Palestinians construction will continue, indeed "get worse."

    12/03/2010 ISRAEL – PALESTINE
    Tensions remain high as Israel shuts down West Bank crossings
    US Vice President Joe Biden, who is in Israel to re-launch the peace process through indirect talks, accepts Netanyahu’s explanation that the construction of East Jerusalem settlements was slated in a few years time. Is this a green light for more settlements? Abbas wants the United States to make sure plans are scrapped.



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