White House announces three-way meeting after Mitchell peace mission ends in failure.
“The fact that he is taking part at all, without any of his demands being met, has given the impression to all that he has caved in much too easily,” he said.
But most Arab commentators appeared to be looking to see if Obama will force Israel to end settlement activity as his administration has demanded.
Egypt’s Al-Ahram observed “this meeting will not only affect the future of the peace process in Middle East … but will also affect the credibility of Obama, especially in Middle East and among Muslims, to whom he promised a new relationship.”
Writing in Al-Jumhuriyya, Subhi Zu’ayter, a Cairo-based political commentator, asked whether there was anything that Obama could do that George Mitchell, the US special representative to the region, had not already tried to stop Netanyahu from building in the occupied West Bank.
He said that either Netanyahu or Obama would lose face.
Iz-al-Din Darwish, writing in Saudi Arabia’s al-Watan, predicted there was no reason for Palestinians to expect progress.
“Obama’s administration began its search for peace but ended with a totally different result … sweet talk about peace will end up with the adoption of Israeli positions. This is the history of US involvement and the result of Mitchell’s five regional tours”, Darwish said.
Syrian commentators, such as Tishrin‘s Umar Kilab, took a more positive stand, arguing that the demand for settlement freeze “is the only united Arab position … it’s a tool of resistance after Arab nations have dropped all other means”.
“Arabs have to defend it and try to register this demand with the Quartet and UN Security Council as a minimal basis for negotiations,” Kilab said.
‘Waiting for actions’
Samir Qatami, a Jordanian journalist, pointed out that Obama’s inability to pressure Israel has been clear ever since Washington sharply criticised the UN investigation into war crimes in Gaza last year.
“This investigation could have been used as a tool to pressure Israel if there had been a true US will to solve the Palestinian issue.”
Muhammad al-Rasa’i in an editorial in al-Ra’y argued the talks will mean nothing unless physical change follows swiftly.
“The magic in Obama’s speeches has started to fade, everybody is now waiting for actions on the ground”.
The Israeli media was equally downbeat.
Maariv’s Ben Kaspit wrote that Obama has weakened Abbas while strengthening Netanyahu, “the opposite of what he wanted”.
“Even if they apply huge pressure and succeed today in extracting some sort of ‘agreement’ to secure a settlement freeze and negotiations of some sort, the Americans know they’ve failed.
“The reason they insisted on this forced summit today is that it is preferable to look ridiculous than not hold it at all.”
And Haaretz‘s Aluf Benn pointed out that Obama’s diplomatic timetable was different from Netanyahu’s. The US president is “not dependent on a coalition like Netanyahu or on legalistic tricks keeping him in power after his term like Abbas”.
The Jerusalem Post felt that the only thing Obama did manage was to get Netanyahu and Abbas say yes to a photo-opportunity.
“So why is everyone saying no to Obama? It’s the economy, stupid. America’s economy has made Obama a weak president – that’s a real pity.”