Obama’s Biggest Test: Healing the Arab-Israeli Rift – washingtonpost.com

As the U.N. General Assembly meets in late September, Obama aims to announce the opening of a new negotiating process between Israelis and Palestinians, along with “confidence-building” steps by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and a number of Arab governments. Though Obama will not offer a specific American “blueprint” for a peace settlement — as a number of Arab governments have urged him to do — he will probably lay out at least a partial vision of the two-state settlement that all sides now say they support, and the course that negotiations should take. More significantly, he intends to set an ambitious timetable for completing the peace deal — something that will please Arabs but may irritate Israel.

via Obama’s Biggest Test: Healing the Arab-Israeli Rift – washingtonpost.com.

what were intended as simple first steps have become an end in themselves, subject to months of posturing, hair-splitting and horse-trading. Both sides seem fairly confident that Mitchell and Netanyahu will reach a deal on the settlement issue; they are due to meet again this week. But it will be a messy compromise that will be time-limited and probably fall short of the complete halt in building that the administration has repeatedly sought. Similarly, Obama probably will get only two of the three actions he requested from Saudi King Abdullah.

It’s not clear whether Netanyahu’s government will be willing to focus on “final status” issues; some in his government want negotiations to be aimed at creating a provisional Palestinian state with temporary borders. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who turned down a far-reaching peace proposal by Israel’s previous government less than a year ago, is still insisting he won’t begin talks without a complete settlement freeze. And Hamas, which governs 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, remains implacable in its refusal to recognize Israel.

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