Israeli and Palestinian leaders have voiced low expectations ahead of today’s three-way summit in New York with President Obama.
Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to defend Jewish settlement activity while Mahmoud Abbas will insist on its complete halt. The current impasse has bred frustration on all sides – hence this latest US initiative – but few people assume the meeting will re-start peace negotiations. While both sides appear entrenched in their own positions, the very fact that Abbas has agreed to meet his Israeli counterpart, and vice versa, is seen as an achievement in itself. For the Palestinians living in the West Bank and seeing more and more Israeli homes being built, it is an act of faith. Hassan Abu Libda of the Palestinian Ministerial Council gave his opinion of the meeting: “This might not be a popular meeting from the Palestinian perspective, but this is something that comes as a step, a positive step, from the Palestinian side towards Mr Obama rather than towards Mr Netanyahu.” The last time Israel and Palestinian leaders met under the auspices of a US president was at the Annapolis summit in 2007. The current US administration has criticised former President George W. Bush for showing a lack of interest in the Palestinian problem. Today’s White House still has to prove it can do better.