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At the U.N., Obama's risky bet on the Middle East

UNITED NATIONS--President Obama's passionate plea before the U.N. General Assembly on behalf of Middle East peace may have been a risky bet.

The president's statement was unusual both for its length and for the evident emotion he gave in his delivery. He urged the parties to "answer the call of history," he pushed Arab states to match "pledges with deeds," and he pushed backed against pessimism and ennui.

"We can say that this time will be different -- that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way," Obama declared.

But Obama's push also came as top officials of his administration have been closeted all week with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in New York, seeking a way out of an impasse that could bring nascent peace talks to a halt next week.

"Our team's here, the Israeli team's here, the Palestinians' team's here," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on Thursday. "Our folks are in constant contact and trying to see if we can't find a way to keep the parties in the process and moving forward."

By all accounts, the United States has not yet found the magic formula to keep the talks going. Palestinian officials have said they will quit the talks if Israel lifts a partial moratorium on settlement expansion due to expire next week; the Israeli government says it will not be extended. (Obama said in his speech that the United States would like to see the moratorium extended, but officials have also floated various compromise proposals, such as briefly extending the freeze or limiting areas where permits would be granted.)

The moratorium officially ends on Sunday, but there appears to be a bit of wiggle room since it took four days to implement the military orders. That is why some news accounts say it ends on Sept. 26, while others say Sept. 30.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas suggested at a dinner with Jewish leaders on Tuesday night that he would like to keep the talks going, but his statement was vague enough to leave unclear whether he would accept a compromise deal. (His statement: "I cannot say I will leave the negotiations, but it's very difficult for me to resume talks if Prime Minister Netanyahu declares that he will continue his [settlement] activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem.")

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, is under heavy pressure from right-leaning members of his coalition to lift the freeze immediately.

Both men thus might want to negotiate but neither one wants to look weak to constituents. In the Palestinian territories, Abbas is already perceived as having caved to American pressure to agree to start negotiations without an extension of the moratorium already in place.

The risk for Obama: If the talks collapse, and cannot be resumed, his words will seem awfully hollow a year from now. Middle East experts recall that at last year's U.N. session, Obama brought Netanyahu and Abbas together and demanded that they start negotiating immediately. But it took 11 months before direct negotiations ever began.

If a crisis is averted, and the talks succeed, however, Obama's words will be in the history books, not the dustpan of history.

By Glenn Kessler  | September 23, 2010; 2:32 PM ET
 
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Comments

People are sick and tired of this so called peace process. All you get is bad news, eternal new complications with every turn of events and the endless requests for more and more money from Americans who are now in economic distress and carry a domestic burden of 15% of the population under the poverty line. Give us a break, already!!

Posted by: likovid | September 23, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

let israel war itself to paradise without any US $$ or troops

Posted by: lichtme | September 23, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

We have to get off our knees to bring peace to the Middle East.

Israel will never make peace unless the US stops acting like Israel's lawyers and takes an even-handed approach. Israel would never have signed the Camp David Accords, ending its war with Egypt and normalizing relations, if Pres. Carter hadn't twisted Israeli PM Begin's arm. The Brits would never have allowed the Good Friday Agreement if it weren't for US pressure.

Israel is quite content to use its overwhelming military advantage (courtesy of the US taxpayer) to continually try to bludgeon the Palestinians into submission. We stole your land, so get over it!

Israel would make peace with the Palestinians in a heart beat if it knew that was the only way to continue receiving its annual, perpetual tribute from the American taxpayer.

We once fought a war to stop paying tribute to Middle Eastern powers. "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli." Sound familiar? But the USA still pays tribute to one foreign power, Israel. To the tune of $4 billion each year.

Time to throw off the Israeli yoke and act like a real nation for once. No more falling down prostrate on our knees before Israel.

Posted by: Garak | September 23, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

The President was right to note that Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together in peace in the Middle East for centuries. They were all Semite Arabs: Arab Jews, Arab Christians and Arab Muslims. The lives of the Semite people of the ME,however, turned upside down when the Russian Khazars created by force Israel in Palestine. For The US to succeed in achieving peace in the ME, understanding the traits and psychology of the Khazars are imperative!

Posted by: editor4tonio | September 23, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Ms Obama the: ÇHANGE PRESIDENT!

A:Your main political change are:
Weakening the free world standing desire against the attacking Islamism's.
USA president acts as Muslims ambassador.
On the name of freedom offering Islamist more rights and legitimacy worldwide.
Without demanding or receive any mutuality from the Muslim countries leaders.
From the Cairo speech up to the UN speech you twisted t the history and flasificate reality.

B: Mr Obama the "CHANGE" president:
– DEAL WITH THE CORE ISSUES:

ISSUE NUNBER 1:
THE TEACHINI AND PREACHING WORLDWIDE OF :
ONE RELIGION- ISLAM
ONE GOVERMENT- CHALIFATE
ONE LAW- SHARIA
Leading to global terror.

ISSUE NUMBER 2:
THE ISALMIST REGIME IN IRAN.
With the ideology of ; SHAI TYPE REGIME WORLD ORDER
Claiming- USA is the big satin.
End of democracy.
Denying human rights.
Main terror supporter.
World or world #1 Isalm&ME expert- Ph Bernard Luis warning about the
Apocalyptic mindset of the Iranian leadership
Do you imagine a world with terrorists protected by Iran NUKS?

ISSUE NUMER 3:
ARABS REFUSAL TO RECOGNIZE THE JEWS RIGHT AS A NATION AND A STATE – NAMED ISRAEL
On your speeches you put on parity:
**The Killers by ideology (Arabs) and the defenders (Israel).
""" The day of judgment will not come until MOSLEMS KILL THE JEWS.
The trees will say O Moslem, here is a Jew behind me, kill him"
Hamas Islamist charter: http://www.mideastweb.org/hamas.htm""""
**The liars to infidels in English and the truth in Arabic.
""""The peace talks with Israel are part of Arab strategy to isolate Israel and threaten its legitimacy.""
(Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah last week in Lebanon)""
** The teachers and preachers of hate and destruction (Arabs) and the other teaching peace and building the future.( Israel)
** You are dealing with the settlements that were not there before 1967 and despite that Arabs refused peace with Israel.
They were not a reason not to conclude the peace with Egypt and Jordan and Oslo agreement.

Final question to Mr president Obama the "CHANGE";

WHY ARE YOU FALSIFICATING USA MOARAL VALUES AND OFFERING SO MANY PRICES TO THE AGRESSORS?

Posted by: mordechayariely | September 23, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

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