U.S. President Obama went public with his plea/request/invitation for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to meet him at the UN in New York on Tuesday , on the margins of the annual high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly.
The invitation came after Obama’s Special Envoy George Mitchell’s extended efforts in the region this week to get the Israeli government to agree to a settlement freeze so the Palestinian leadership could agree to resume negotiations they broke off during the IDF military operation in Gaza this past winter (Operation Cast Lead). Mitchell even went back and forth between Jerusalem and Ramallah four times on Friday, during terrible traffic on the last Friday in Ramadan, and as the Palestinians prepared for the big Eid holiday, and Israelis prepared for the Rosh Hashonah New Year’s weekend (which of course required a TOTAL CLOSURE of the West Bank until midnight on Tuesday).
Anyone who wants to recap that run-around can read a summary account in Haaretz here. This article also reports that “A senior source at the Prime Minister’s Bureau said Sunday that the Palestinians were the ones who ‘folded’ after they refused a meeting with Netanyahu. ‘They made militant statements but in the end they will come’, the source said. Senior officials at the U.S. administration have also stressed that there has been no major breakthrough and that the differences between the sides have remained unchanged since U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, departed the area on Friday afternoon. U.S. officials said that they expected no declaration of the negotiations’ resumption at the end of the meeting, and the talks on this issue would continue in the coming weeks. The aim is to resume the negotiations by the first half of October”.
Of course, the Palestinians could not be so rude as to refuse Obama’s invitation — despite earlier remarks about their refusing to cave in. It’s no big deal, suggested Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Erekat, who was recently elected to the Fatah Central Committee, and to the PLO Executive Committee — it’s just a meeting, it doesn’t mean that negotiations will resume.
But, they probably will.
Just hours earlier, Erekat said there was “zero chance” of a meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA in NY …]
Now, it will be up to Obama to squeeze the Israeli leadership for a big concession.