Middle East Watch

By Dan Froomkin
12:05 PM ET, 05/28/2009

Mark Landler and Isabel Kershner write in the New York Times: "The Obama administration reiterated emphatically on Wednesday that it viewed a complete freeze of construction in settlements on the West Bank as a critical step toward a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Speaking of President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, 'He wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth’ exceptions.'"

Matti Friedman writes for the Associated Press: "Israel said Thursday it will press ahead with housing construction in West Bank settlements despite a surprisingly blunt U.S. demand that it stop all the building....

"The new conflict with Washington comes on the day President Barack Obama is meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House. Abbas has said the Palestinian demand for freezing settlements will be at the top of his agenda in the talks."

Tony Karon reports for Time: "Abbas may be committed to the two-state solution, but his political authority over his own people is so limited that he is unable to effectively negotiate on their behalf."

Steven R. Hurst writes for the Associated Press: "The Palestinian president will be pushing President Barack Obama on Thursday to facilitate peace with Israel through a larger solution to the Middle East conflict....

"Top Palestinian officials traveling with President Mahmoud Abbas said he was working to repackage a 2002 Saudi Arabian plan that called for exchange of Arab land occupied by Israel in the 1967 war for normalized relations with Arab countries....

"Obama has appeared open to that approach, one that experts believe can be expanded and built upon given the growing fear of Iran that is shared by Israel and the Arabs.

"Arab diplomats said earlier this month that the U.S. had asked the 22-member Arab League to amend the 2002 Saudi initiative so that it would be more palatable to Israel."

Roger Cohen writes in his New York Times opinion column that in the first meeting between Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, earlier this month,
Obama got played.

See my May 19 post about Obama's Stealth Middle East Peace Plan, which I'm pretty sure Obama will finally unveil at Cairo University next week.

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