In his most direct intervention into Middle East diplomacy so far, US President Barack Obama has called on Palestinians and Israelis to act with a sense of urgency to get formal peace negotiations back on track.
During a meeting where no major breakthroughs had been expected, Obama coaxed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas into a handshake before announcing: “Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon. And more importantly we must give those negotiations the opportunity to succeed. And so my message to these two leaders is clear, despite all the obstacles, despite all the history, despite all the mistrust, we have to find a way forward. We have to summon the will to break the deadlock that has trapped generations of Israelis and Palestinians in an endless cycle of conflict and suffering.” Obama said his top Middle East negotiator, George Mitchell, would meet with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators again next week. He also said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would report back to him in October on the status of talks.