It is down to business in face-to-face Middle East talks today after the pomp of a White House reception.
Meeting key players ahead of the negotiations, host President Barack Obama urged Israelis and Palestinians to grasp the chance for peace. But, as direct talks begin at the State Department, the looming expiry of Israel’s partial freeze on settlement building is casting a shadow.
Settlement activities in the Palestinian territories are contrary to international law, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told a news conference.
He said all such activities must be completely frozen until the negotiating process comes to a successful end.
Broad scepticism about the prospects of a deal and fresh violence are also posing a challenge. But, after a 20 month hiatus, Israel’s leader is talking positively.
“I came here today to find an historic compromise that will enable both our peoples to live in peace, in security and in dignity,” said Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I did not come here today to make an argument. I came here today to make peace.”
Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are seeking an accord within a year that will set up an independent Palestinian state, side by side with a secure Israel.