by Saud Abu Ramadan, Emad Drimly, Li Weijie
GAZA, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to hold a three-way meeting Tuesday in New York, but Palestinian analysts played down any breakthrough of the stalled Middle East peace process.
The Palestinian presidency clarified in a statement that Abbas' acceptance of the U.S. invitation to join the summit at the UN General Assembly "does not mean that the Palestinian leadership accepted the resumption of the peace talks without Israel's freeze of settlement activities."
ABBAS SHOWS WILLINGNESS TO TALK
Abbas agreed the meeting with Netanyahu in this particular period, although the latter failed to give a clear announcement of freezing settlement activities.
Ra'ed Afana, a Gaza-based political expert, told Xinhua that Abbas' acceptance to meet with Netanyahu "is a smart political move aimed at embarrassing Netanyahu and showing before the international community that the latter is the one who does not want to resume the peace process, as Netanyahu rejects the world's demands to halt settlements."
"It was obvious that Obama exerted much pressure on Abbas to join the meeting. Abbas, who is looking forward to "U.S. satisfaction," intended to show his willingness for talks to get out of current impasse.
The West-backed Abbas insisted on not resuming any peace talks with the right-leaning Israeli government headed by hawkish Netanyahu unless the latter clearly declares a full freeze of settlement activities in the West Bank, resumes the talks on final status issues and recognizes the two-state solution.
Abbas accepted the U.S. invitation to join the summit, although he knew in advance that most of the Palestinian political factions, mainly his bitter opponent Hamas movement, may oppose his decision.
Islamic Hamas movement and Palestinian factions rejected Monday the three-way meeting. Hamas said "Abbas is not authorized to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people. Hamas movement is not bound by any agreement or treaty he would reach with Netanyahu."
ĦĦĦĦDETERMINED U.S. PUSH
Ibrahim Abrash, a political science expert at the Gaza-based al-Azhar University, told Xinhua that the U.S. administration is determined to hold this meeting, and it "can not accept the failure of sponsoring such meeting."
"I believe that this U.S. effort and insistence to hold the meeting in New York is to bypass the futile efforts of the U.S. peace envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell to reach a deal with Israel on freezing the settlement activities, even temporarily," said Abrash.
He said Israel and the Palestinians have their interests in accepting Obama's request, but accepting the invitation "doesn't mean that there will be any agreement."
"All what the Palestinians really want is to see a real change in the U.S. policy towards the Middle East peace process, putting in considerations not only the Israeli needs, but also the Palestinian needs, demands and legitimate rights," said Khalil Shahin, a Ramallah-based political analyst.
ĦĦĦĦNO BREAKTHROUGH EXPECTED
Palestinian observers and politicians doubted that the trilateral summit, which will be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, would achieve any tangible result to serve Palestinian interests.
Shahin told Xinhua that the New York meeting "would produce a certain political dynamic between the Israelis and the Palestinians on the one hand, and between Israel and Arab countries on the other, over resuming the negotiations."
However, he ruled out the possibility of any real progress towards Palestinian gains.
The summit comes amid the large differences between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and it "would be meaningless if the two sides don't reach an agreement on halting settlement activities," Shahin said.
In case the meeting succeeds in persuading Netanyahu to halt the settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem, Obama will present his vision on resuming the peace talks between the two sides and will find a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict within the coming two years, he said.
If the meeting fails to reach any substantial agreement, Abbas, who has insisted on halting settlement before resuming any permanent status talks, would take advantage of the opportunity to ask the United States, Europe and his Arab friends, mainly Jordan and Egypt, to keep pressure on Israel to respond to the world's demands, added Shahin.