America’s President Barack Obama, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are to meet together for the first time. It will happen on Tuesday in an effort to try to re-start Middle East peace talks.
The main sticking point has been the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Netanyahu said the meeting would be without any pre-conditions. The US special envoy George Mitchell gained little after a week of shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East, during which time Israel and the Palestinians dug their heels in on the issue of Jewish settlements. Officials from both sides have reacted positively to Obama’s invitation, but each acknowledges that there would have to be major shifts in negotiating positions for there to be any chance of re-starting the peace process. Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to suspend settlement building in the West Bank for nine months. But the Palestinians rejected that proposal because he specifically excluded East Jerusalem from any freeze.