by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
September 24, 2009
WHERE THE ROAD GOES DARK
NEW YORK, Sept. 22, 2009 -- President Barack Obama's meeting today at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought little of substance, and was merely an opportunity for the world press to snap photos of the three leaders.
Why? There is little, if anything, on which the three men agree.
President Obama believes a Palestinian state will defuse most of the Middle East hostility issues. He, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Mideast envoy George Mitchell have pressed for Israeli concessions since taking office earlier this year.
Abbas is a hardliner when it comes to the subject of a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. [Editor's note: News reports say the issue was marginalized by the President as he pressed for so-called "Final Status" negotiations on a future Palestinian state.]
At home, Abbas faces censure from the Palestinians who believe in the old song-and-dance routine set to the tune of "You Stole our House, Now Give it Back." His constituents believe he should not even be in the same room with Netanyahu until the prime minister kowtows to demands from the Obama Administration and halts settlement construction in the West Bank.
Netanyahu believes Israel has the right to build on its own land without interference from anyone. He is also entrenched in his position that Israel will not sign a peace agreement which allows the Palestinian Authority to form an army, share airspace above Israel, and sign peace treaties with other nations. But, he knows, too, that he needs U.S. arms and support should an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities be necessary. Netanyahu is walking a fine line in order to hold his governing coalition together back at the Knesset.
Anything positive from the summit would likely benefit President Obama, whose approval ratings have been dropping. If Obama cannot get a commitment to get the peace process moving again, he will be faced with another failure. He needs a success to present at the end of today's "coffee and tea" summit.
Abbas, however, could be the real loser if Netanyahu continues to refuse the demands of Obama and the State Department to halt construction. Senior officials in the Palestinian Authority have reportedly issued a veiled warning to their leader that a meeting with Israel without a pre-arranged capitulation on Netanyahu's part would incite "a third intifada, this time against the PA."
Both men are apparently well aware of two things: nothing substantial will come from the meeting; each is taking a significant chance in even being there.
The White House's scripted meeting between the two Middle East leaders is nothing more than theater of the absurd. Neither Abbas nor Netanyahu will concede to demands made by President Obama. Each will smile politely for the cameras during the obligatory photo-op and then go their separate ways.
Perhaps the coffee or tea alone will have been worth the trip. Nevertheless, the show must go on. And why not on the biggest stage of all - New York City?
Michael D. Evans recommended Benjamin Netanyahu for his first political position and is one of his oldest friends. Evans is a New York Times #1 bestselling author who has written 38 books on the Middle East and hundreds of articles published in USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Jerusalem Post and newspapers throughout the world.