Obama presses Abbas to help break stalemate with Israel

WASHINGTON Mon Mar 17, 2014 9:12pm EDT

1 of 2. U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) at the White House in Washington March 17, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama pressed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday to help break the stalemate in U.S.-brokered peace talks with Israel, saying leaders on both sides must take political risks before an April deadline.

In White House talks overshadowed by the Ukraine crisis, Abbas acknowledged that time was running out for Middle East negotiations and called on Israel to go ahead with the release of a final group of Palestinian prisoners by the end of March to show it is serious about peace efforts.

Obama, who met Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks ago, made clear he was not giving up on the faltering U.S.-led peace process despite widespread pessimism about reaching a "framework" deal to extend talks beyond an April 29 deadline.

"It's very hard," Obama said with Abbas sitting beside him in the Oval Office. "We're going to have to take some tough political decisions and risks if we're able to move it forward, and I hope that we can continue to see progress in the coming days and weeks."

One of the main stumbling blocks is Netanyahu's demand that Abbas explicitly recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians have refused, saying such a concession would destroy their own narrative for nationhood.

Without acknowledging Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people, Abbas reminded Obama that Palestinians have accepted the "legitimacy" of Israel since 1988 and in 1993, "we recognized the state of Israel."

Washington has endorsed the Israeli position but says the issue should not be a roadblock to diplomatic progress at this stage and should be dealt with future negotiations.

Making a foray into Middle East diplomacy after a failed first-term peace effort, Obama insisted that, after decades of on-off negotiations, the likely contours of any elusive final peace agreement are well known.

"Everybody understands what the outlines of a peace deal would look like, involving a territorial compromise on both sides based on '67 lines with mutually agreed upon swaps that would ensure that Israel was secure but would also ensure that the Palestinians have a sovereign state," Obama said.

Abbas agreed that a solution should entail a Palestinian state built on borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war and with East Jerusalem as its capital. Netanyahu has declared that Israel would never return to earlier lines it considered indefensible and regards Jerusalem as indivisible.


Facing pressure from his own people to hold the line on concessions, Abbas told reporters at the start of the talks, "We don't have any time to waste. Time is not on our side."

Afterward, Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah described the meeting as "long, intensive and difficult." He said a number of ideas were considered but "we did not receive anything in writing."

Abbas met later with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. They "exchanged ideas and presented thoughts on possibilities for moving the negotiations forward," a senior State Department official said.

Looming over the peace effort is the question of whether Israel this month will carry out the release of a final batch of Palestinian prisoners, to which it agreed in order restart negotiations last year. U.S. officials fear that if Israel scraps the release, peace talks could break down.

"We are hopeful that the fourth batch will be released by the 29th of March because this will give a very solid impression about the seriousness of these efforts to achieve peace."

Kerry brought Israel and the Palestinians back into negotiations on July 29 after a three-year gap. At the time, he said the target was to achieve a "final status agreement" within nine months.

U.S. officials have scaled back their ambitions, saying they are now trying to forge a non-binding "framework for negotiations" by then. But the two sides do not appear to have made much visible progress on narrowing their differences.

"I believe that now is the time for not just the leaders of both sides but also the people of both sides to embrace this opportunity," Obama said.

Obama seemed to take pains to bolster Abbas, commending him for his commitment to peace. The U.S. president appeared to be pushing back against Netanyahu's assertion during his visit that Abbas had not done his part.

The Palestinians point to Israeli settlement-building in the occupied West Bank as the main obstacle to peace.

Abbas faces pressure at home not to agree to any loosely worded accord that would simply prolong negotiations, with no clear end in sight.

Although the terms under discussion for the framework accord have not been published, Palestinians say early indications suggest they will be offered less than what former U.S. President Bill Clinton laid out in 2000 in the so-called Clinton Parameters.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Susan Heavey, Steve Holland and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Editing by Tom Brown, David Gregorio and Peter Cooney)

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Comments (3)
Arielyshein wrote:
James Adams said:
“No wise man tries every day what he has proved wrong the day before”

World politicians,including USA,misunderstand why the Arabs,Islamists oppose to
recognize Israel as the Jewish state.You miss the opportunity to help those in the Arab,Islamsit world willing to live in peace with the world.
No-you don’t understand the Arabs,Islamists narratives.
No-your solutions to the Palestinian Israel conflict do not bring peace not worldwide ( from Phillipins to Paris,from China to USA) for non Islamic cultures and not Israel.

Yes-if you would understand the Arabs, Islamists narratives you will get:
-What you call peace they call temporary truce with infidels to be broken when
they will accumulate more power
- Your policy is a sign of weakness,encouragement for more demands and
aggression in their worldwide domination endless war.
Before making policy know the basics:

1:To legitimize their hold on power,Islamist theocrats and pan Arabic’s dictatorships need antagonists.
They blame the west for all their structural problems and Israel the land of the Jews.

2: Their goal is world dominated by Islam because of the “truth of Islam” needs to be proven true in the real world.
The prove begins with the destruction of Israel.

3: Al Jazeera- quote:
“If we say that we want to wipe Israel out its too difficult.
It’s not acceptable policy to say so.
Don’t say these things to the world. Keep it to yourself.
Everybody knows that the greater goal cannot be accomplished in one go.”

4: Peace and quiet for Christians and Jews is possible only under Islam wings”

“The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews)”

World politicians you have the key the help changing the above paradigms>

1:By demanding the Arab and Islamist world to recognize Israel as the Jewish state you will help those who want to break the violent cycle and open the gate for fundamental changes in the Arab and Islamsit societies.

The changes that will depart from the 7 century values and bring 21 century values of peace and quiet to large parts of the world in ME,Europe,Africa,Asia and America.

2: World politicians.
With the money contributed by you yo the Palestinians 2 countries could be build from scratch- and the outcome is :
-conflict continuation-hate teaching preaching- invest in arms
-and not building a economy and a healthy government for their people.
Help funds used only for promoting peace and not promoting conflict forever

3:Without conflict continuations and blackmailing the world by terror the Palestinian
don’t have any positive contribution.
They will not meet world leaders, attend international conferences, be the
hero’s of modern anti-Semitics, get media interviews and get international funds for their expensive life.
Why should they give away all the benefits and start the boring work for their
people welfare?

They are not altruists!

Mar 17, 2014 11:28pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
unionwv wrote:
“Abbas faces pressure at home not to agree to any loosely worded accord that would simply prolong negotiations, with no clear end in sight.” – Reuters

Not exactly – rockets continuing to rain on Israel from Gaza mean Abbas is under pressure at home to join the effort to destroy Israel.

Mar 18, 2014 5:46am EDT  --  Report as abuse
unionwv wrote:
About the only notable accomplishment of another failed president – James Earl Carter – was the Camp David Accord, whereby Sadat of Egypt made peace with Israel. Ultimately, it cost Sadat his life.

Abbas may remember that.

Mar 18, 2014 8:37am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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