"On Tuesday, I will meet President Mubarak in Cairo. It will be our fifth meeting in the space of a year. I hope to work together with him to promote direct talks with the Palestinians.”
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following a cabinet meeting
“We’re under pressure to agree to direct negotiations with Israel. Such a move requires the approval of the Arab League. If the Arab League says it’s okay, we will go along.”
- anonymous Palestinian Authority official, commenting on repeated phone calls from the White House to enter direct negotiations
“If there is no progress in the proximity talks, what would be the benefits of moving to the direct talks? The direct talks will be then absurd and useless, therefore, we had informed all the international parties that we want to achieve a progress first. These are our ideas and we wait to hear from the Israeli side."
- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also said direct talks would be "futile" if they began now
The Palestinians are obviously using the Arab League as cover, having no incentive to enter direct talks under Netanyahu’s terms. Enormous pressure will be applied, but it’s improbable that Abbas, the PLO, and the Arab League will give in without getting something back. President Barack Obama does everything for Israelis whether they know it or not. The situation has always depended on what Obama can do for Palestinians - and especially their leaders - if not freeze settlement approval and construction in both the West Bank and Jerusalem.
His options are few and still be defined by Netanyahu in his attempt to avoid a settlement showdown. Closing IDF operations “in a number of Palestinian cities in the West Bank” sounds nicer than it probably is, but a start nevertheless.
Pushing “absurd, futile” direct talks on Abbas though is a certain dead end.