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Palestinian Leader to Visit White House

  • Luis Ramirez

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits the White House Monday. Abbas is to meet with President Barack Obama as the U.S. works to come up with a framework for a Mideast peace agreement by the end of April.

A street battle this month between Palestinians and Israeli police in Jerusalem and Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip, after militants fired more rockets at Israel.

Scenes like this are the backdrop of yet another U.S. effort to salvage the peace process.

Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met in Paris for intense diplomatic talks on the effort.

Now, it's Abbas' turn to come to the White House, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu two weeks ago heard President Obama express his hopes for a solution.

“It's my belief that ultimately it is still possible to create two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a state of Palestine in which people are living side by side in peace and security. But it's difficult and it requires compromise on all sides,” he said.

The framework would create the basis for discussion of the key issues: the creation of a Palestinian state, Israeli settlements in the West Bank, security and the status of Jerusalem.

Both sides lack trust. And recently Abbas said there was no way the Palestinians would accept recognizing Israel as a Jewish state - a key Israeli demand.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president would press for difficult concessions.

“He will discuss progress made with President Abbas as he did with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He will commend President Abbas as he did Prime Minister Netanyahu on the tough decisions that each leader has made thus far in an effort to move the process forward,” he said.

President Abbas has shown signs of flexibility on a longstanding, key issue - the Palestinians insistence that they be given the right to return to areas they fled or were forced to leave when Israel was established in 1948.

"Let's put the issue of refugees on the table. Because it is an issue that must be resolved, to put an end to the conflict. So that the refugees can be satisfied with the solution. But we do not seek and we will not work towards flooding Israel with millions [of refugees] which would change its social composition," he said.

Aaron David Miller was an advisor to U.S. secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli negotiations for 25 years.

He said Monday's meeting showed the White House saw an opportunity for progress, but he was not optimistic.

“There were indications at least up until the Netanyahu meeting that the president was increasingly frustrated with the Israelis. This will be a better meeting, but I'm not sure how productive it's going to be," he said.

Despite being preoccupied with events in Ukraine, President Obama sees this as a priority and wants to press on Abbas that time is running out as an April 29th deadline draws near for a framework agreement.

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