Palestinians have welcomed US efforts to bring forward the Middle East peace process but are demanding more. It follows talks between US president Barack Obama and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas in Washington.
Israel has so far rejected US and Palestinian demands to completely freeze settlement activity, pledging not to build new ones but vowing to continue construction in those already there: “Prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu has committed himself not to build any new settlements. There will be no construction within settlements other than natural growth, within existing settlements,” said Israeli spokesman Yigal Palmor. Palestinians in the occupied territories are demanding more pressure to force Israel to stop settlement activity. On the streets of Ramallah and Gaza this morning, reaction was mixed: “In my opinion, there won’t be any results on the ground,” said one woman in Ramallah. “These meetings are mere formalities.” “Obama, the US president, has to put real pressure on Israel for it to dismantle all its settlements, and solve the problem at the root,” said a Gaza resident. Obama also reiterated his commitment to a two-state solution, which Netanyahu has so far refused to endorse. It remains to be seen how far Washington is prepared to push its traditional ally Israel to make concessions.