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Mixed Israeli, Palestinian reactions to Obama's UN speech

(Xinhua)

09:47, September 23, 2011

JERUSALEM, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- United States President Barack Obama Wednesday opened the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) with a speech that left Israelis satisfied and Palestinians disappointed.

"It was a good speech for Israel and Obama made it clear that peace can only come through negotiations, which we have always stated," Prof. Shmuel Sandler of Bar-Ilan University told Xinhua Thursday, noting that Obama's speech was more or less expected by most experts.

With direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a standstill for a year, the months leading up to the tense session have focused on Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's plan to seek backing from the UN Security Council (UNSC) for an independent Palestinian state. Abbas is expected to make the official announcement in his address to the UNGA on Friday.

In any case, the United States holds veto power in the UNSC and Obama has on several occasions stated that it would be used should the resolution be brought to the council.

"We both agree that Israel and the Palestinians should sit down together and negotiate an agreement of mutual recognition and security," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has in the past rejected the idea of the 1967 lines. After Obama's speech, the two leaders presented a unified front.

"I think this is the only way to get to a stable and durable peace," the prime minister added.

While Netanyahu appeared at ease during the meeting with Obama, analysts in Israel agree that once the annual UN session is over and the United States uses its veto, Washington will send Netanyahu a list of demands to be fulfilled as compensation for blocking the resolution.

Palestinian officials from both Abbas's Fatah party and the Islamic Hamas movement expressed disappointment over Obama's speech.

Abbas is as determined as ever to continue with the bid despite the U.S. veto, according to Arab media reports. Nevertheless the president's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina said that PNA is ready to listen to Obama's call for renewed negations if certain demands are meet.

"We are prepared to restart negotiations the moment that Israel stops settlement construction and agrees to discuss the 1967 lines, " Abu Rudeina said, adding that "the United States must really pressure the Israeli side to retreat from the occupied territories. "

Palestinian analyst Hani al-Masri described Obama's speech as " a disappointment because he didn't mention the settlements or the 1967 borders."

However, Masri was also critical of Abbas for choosing to go straight to the UNSC where the Palestinian leader knew that the United States would veto the resolution.

The preferred option, Masri believes, should have been to first go to the UNGA where the Palestinians know that they have the majority to pass the resolution advancing their status to non- member observer state, and then go to the UNSC.

A non-member observer state doesn't have all of the rights of a full member nation, but such a role would allow the Palestinians to seek membership in international organizations and UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court.

"Negotiations aren't near because the Israeli government refuses to restart negotiations based on freezing settlements and talking about the 1967 borders," Masri said.

He argued that it would be "political suicide" if Abbas agree to negotiate without these terms."

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