U.S. Official: Obama 'Very Pleased' With Outcome of Mideast Peace Summit

Prime Minister Netanyahu, senior Palestinian and Arab leaders expressed similar optimism following their meeting last week.

U.S. President Barack Obama is very pleased with the outcome of the Washington summit and plans to play a personal role to move the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians forward, a senior U.S. official told Haaretz over the weekend.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a number of senior Palestinian and other Arab leaders expressed similar optimism.

The senior official said Obama had cleared his entire schedule last Wednesday to devote himself to the summit. "He never invested in any other issue this way," the official said.

leaders - AFP - Sept 3 2010

Senior U.S. officials were encouraged by the discussions at the dinner where Obama hosted Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah. They said a sincere and open conversation took place on the possibilities for progress in the peace process. The officials said they had the impression the Palestinians left the summit very pleased as well.

Preparations will begin this week for the second round of talks, scheduled for September 14 at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

Speaking to Haaretz over the weekend, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat denied statements to the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam by another senior Palestinian negotiator, Nabil Shaath, that the Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams would hold a preparatory meeting tomorrow in Jericho in the presence of the Americans.

Shaath also told Al-Ayyam that Obama had announced he was going to visit the region to move the peace talks ahead, but had not decided on a date, and that he had promised that his efforts to stop the settlements would continue.

The talks in Sharm are expected to last for one day and deal with borders and security arrangements, as agreed at the summit.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special Mideast envoy George Mitchell will also attend the talks. The following day, the parties will meet for talks in Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Yesterday, aides to Abbas told the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat that the atmosphere in the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks had "taken a 180-degree turn" for the better. They said the Palestinian delegation was pleased the United States planned to include all the core issues in an agreement to be reached by the end of 2011.

According to the report, during his meeting with Netanyahu, Abbas presented the points agreed on with former prime minister Ehud Olmert and agreements in principle on security and borders. The Palestinian sources said Netanyahu and Abbas discussed the settlements in general, but no detailed proposals were made.

Netanyahu is to discuss the summit and the continuation of the talks in his regular address to the weekly cabinet meeting.

Over the coming days, Netanyahu is expected to try to keep his coalition in line despite right-wing protests over his speeches during the summit. Tomorrow he will host all cabinet ministers, coalition Knesset members and their spouses at a Rosh Hashanah toast, where he is expected to call for unity.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at a press conference in Cyprus over the weekend: "I'm not sure all the sensitive issues like Jerusalem and refugees can be solved in only a year. The more practical approach is to reach a long-term interim agreement," he said.