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Obama-Netanyahu talks need concessions for an Israeli-Palestinian deal

Obama has done much for Netanyahu and Israel in advance of Tuesday's White House meeting. Now the prime minister must deliver, especially in furthering a freeze on Jewish settlements.

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A year has passed since President Obama vowed the US would not to turn its back on the Palestinians and their “aspiration for ... a state of their own.” On Tuesday he meets with the one man most able to create that new state: Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel.

Their talks at the White House will have many purposes, such as lessening the estrangement between the two leaders and bolstering US support of Israel at a time when it is very isolated. But Mr. Obama should not forget his promise to the Palestinians and must extract concessions from Mr. Netanyahu.

The clock is ticking for concessions – from both sides.

In September, a 10-month freeze on the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank is due to end. Without a renewal of the freeze – which Netanyahu only imposed under pressure from Obama – the Palestinians led by President Mahmoud Abbas will not continue their indirect (or “proximity”) negotiations with Israel.

Also in September, the Arab League’s support of those talks will end, which would give Mr. Abbas an excuse to bow out.

Extending both the settlement freeze and the League’s support of talks is Obama’s immediate goal. But the more difficult of the two is the freeze, as the awkward coalition of Israeli political parties that Netanyahu heads is anything but secure. Even now the United States must deal with a variety of Israeli leaders, from the dovish defense minister, Ehud Barak, to the hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.


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