President Obama had a message yesterday for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: "Simply put, it is past time to stop talking about starting negotiations, and time to move forward," he said. But while the American president may have succeeded in getting the two leaders together for a short meeting and a photo-op, he failed to win any concessions, with Netanyahu refusing to freeze Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Expectations of the event were low, but pundits are still dubbing it a dud for both the peace process and the leaders' reputations.
- An Embarrassing Moment for Obama, Andrew Sullivan writes at The Atlantic.
The Israeli prime minister is uninterested in doing the one thing that the president of the United States has asked for: freezing settlements in the land seized by Israel in 1967 as a way to jump-start negotiations. If Netanyahu won't agree to this, why should he agree to anything significant? And what, one wonders, can the administration do that could actually pressure the Israelis to realize that the US is serious?
- Disaster For Obama and Abbas, Uni Avnery declared Tikkun Magazine. "The threefold summit did indeed take place. But instead of a shining achievement for the new American administration, we witnessed a humbling demonstration of weakness. After Obama was compelled to give up his demand for a settlement freeze, the meeting no longer had any content."
- The American President Looks Weak, says an editorial in The Telegraph. Obama, they say, looks ineffectual.
The President's inspirational rhetoric seems to have made precious little impact on the region. The Israelis are doggedly persisting with illegal settlement construction, while Washington's constant appeals to Arab leaders to make minor concessions, such as granting Israeli civilian aircraft over-flight rights, have met with a resounding silence.
- No Victory for Netanyahu, Shmuel Rosner warns at The New Republic.
True, Obama had to draw down his overeager demands from Israel. But it is also true that Netanyahu, not long ago, had to reverse his opposition to a two-state-solution and publicly declare that his goal is similar to the one espoused today by Obama. True, Abbas was dragged to the summit only days after insisting that he will not come to any meeting unless settlement construction is frozen first. But it is also true that Netanyahu, the head of the right-wing Likud Party, is one of the first Israeli prime ministers to agree to some form of settlement freeze.