WASHINGTON – Will Barack Obama mange to soften Avigdor Lieberman ? The American president may join one of the Israeli foreign minister's meetings with senior White House officials next week in a bid to bring him closer to the peace process, sources in Washington told Ynet on Friday.
Lieberman is scheduled to arrive in the American capital while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Sharm al-Sheikh. He is slated to meet with US Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Advisor Jim Jones.
The White House does not inform guests in advance whether the president plans to join a meeting held by one of his assistants with a foreign official, and there is no official confirmation for such a meeting.
Ramallah officials have accused Lieberman of being the main obstacle to peace, after he lashed out at the direct negotiations, claiming that "a peace agreement is an unattainable target – not next year and not in the next generation."
According to Lieberman, the Abbas regime is weak and unstable. "The US forced him into this meeting in Washington. Who does Abu Mazen (Abbas) represents? Gaza is ruled by Hamas. The elections in the Palestinian Authority have already been postponed twice or three times. Any administration in the Palestinian Authority could say Abu Mazen doesn't represent anyone," he said.
Obama: Both sides ready for concessions
On the eve of the Jewish New Year, President Obama spoke on the phone with Jewish leaders and asked them to discount non-constructive statements made by Israeli and Palestinian leaders as Middle East peace talks move forward.
According to the Foreign Policy magazine, Obama said, "I guarantee you over the next four months, six months, a year, in any given week there's going to be something said by someone in the Palestinian Authority that makes your blood boil and makes you think we can't do this. We're going to have to work through those things."
"What you're going to see over the next several months is that at any given moment, either President Abbas or Prime Minister Netanyahu may end up saying certain things for domestic consumption, for their constituencies and so forth, that may not be as reflective of that spirit of compromise we would like to see. Well, that's the nature of these talks," Obama said.
"I am absolutely convinced that both sides want to make this work and both sides are going to be willing to make some difficult concessions."
Shortly after the second round of direct talks next week, a third round may take place in New York, where Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled to take part in the UN General Assembly meeting. President Obama will address the GA on September 23, Netanyahu on September 24 and Abbas on September 25.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday told reporters after meeting with US special envoy George Mitchell that he expected to meet with Netanyahu and Abbas during the General Assembly meeting. He called on both sides to cease violence and urged Israel to practice restraint in terms of the settlement construction.
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