On his short helicopter ride from Jerusalem to the West Bank, President Barack Obama is flying over sprawling Jewish settlements — a reminder of Israel‘s ongoing construction on war-won land in defiance of much of the world and a major hurdle to renewing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Palestinian officials say Mahmoud Abbas‘ main message to Obama, as the two meet Thursday, is that the Palestinian president can’t return to talks on drawing a border between Israel and a future Palestine while Israel unilaterally shapes that line through accelerated settlement expansion.
At the same time, Palestinians doubt Obama is willing to spend the domestic political capital required to pressure Israel to halt construction — something he briefly tried at the beginning of his first term, before backing down when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resisted.
In a joint news conference with Netanyahu late Wednesday, Obama seemed to confirm Palestinian fears that he won’t confront Israel over the settlements.
The U.S. president didn’t mention settlements at all when asked about the lack of progress during his first term toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead he suggested a low-key approach, saying he came to hear from Abbas and Netanyahu and that “it is a hard slog to work through all these issues.”
But with settlements growing steadily, time for a partition deal may be running out, Israeli settlement monitors and European diplomats have warned.
“We are reaching the tipping point,” said settlement watcher and Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer.
“A year from now, if the current trends continue, the two-state solution will not be possible. The map will be so balkanized that it will not be possible to create a credible border between Israel and Palestine,” he said.
Palestinians also argue that after two decades of intermittent negotiations, the contours of an agreement have widely been established and that it’s time for decisions, not endless rounds of diplomacy. They suspect Netanyahu is seeking open-ended negotiations to give him the diplomatic cover for more settlement-building, while being unwilling to make the needed concessions.
Netanyahu has said he is willing to negotiate the terms of a Palestinian state. He reiterated Wednesday, with Obama by his side, that he is ready to return to talks, but also said there should be no “preconditions” — …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News