WASHINGTON – The Washington Post warned US President Barack Obama Wednesday against applying too much pressure on Israel as proximity talks with the Palestinians begin.
A Post editorial doubted the Obama administration's ability to promote peace with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightist government, which it said was "unlikely to accept some of the terms that would be necessary for peace, such as Palestinian sovereignty over part of Jerusalem".
"The Obama administration should recognize that blunt pressure on Israel won't produce a Middle East deal. Instead, the administration needs to methodically press both sides to negotiate seriously," the editorial said.
"Steps toward peace in the Middle East have always begun with initiatives by Israelis and Arabs. Mr. Obama himself recently quoted former secretary of state James A. Baker III's maxim that 'we can't want it more than they do.'"
The Post editorial was also critical of the administration's Middle East policy, and said the two-month delay in talks was an example of "diplomacy at its worst."
Though the delay was caused by construction in east Jerusalem, the paper said, "President Obama chose to escalate what could have been a blip into a public quarrel, in the apparent hope of extracting a series of concessions from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu."
The attempt has failed, the Post said, and the talks were "starting up on pretty much the same terms established two months ago."
The editorial also accuses Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of delaying the talks for as long as possible.
"He has insisted on indirect talks even though he has participated in direct negotiations with Israeli leaders for two decades; In 2008, he refused to take up a far-reaching peace offer from former prime minister Ehud Olmert. The Palestinian leader now appears to be counting on the Obama administration to do his negotiating," the paper said.