BEIJING, March 15 (Xinhua) -- As U.S. President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan is unfolding, experts and officials have voiced mixed opinions, with expectations held by the Palestinian and Jordanian sides being rather low.
Some Israeli analysts believe the visit, starting on March 20 and being the first by Obama since he became president in January 2009, might have a big impact on the Middle East situation and serve as an opportunity to restart the Israeli-Palestinian talks that have been stalled since 2010 after Israel resumed settlement construction.
The timing of the visit and Obama's simultaneous visits to Israel and the Palestinian territories indicate that he might have reached certain consensus with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, who might use the opportunity to restart peace talks, said Shlomo Brom, an ex-brigadier general and researcher from the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, Israel.
However, some experts doubt about Obama's ability to persuade Israel to return to the negotiation table given the fact that Israel's decision to build more settlements to retaliate the Palestinians' acquisition of the UN non-member observer status last November drew extensive condemnation, including condemnation by the United States.
Besides, it remains to be seen whether the Israeli cabinet, newly born after nearly two months' negotiations, can reach any agreement with the Palestinians on the thorny issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As for the Palestinians, although they are looking forward to the visit, they do not pin a high hope on any breakthrough in their troubled peace process with Israel.
They believe Obama's priority will be to repair the U.S.-Israeli ties strained by the two sides' differences over the appointment of the U.S. defense minister and the Iranian nuclear issue, thus benefiting Israel most, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be a backburner issue.
They do not expect Obama to pressure Israel into talks with them given Israel's long-held hardline stance.
Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader in Gaza, is pessimistic about Obama's visit, believing it would not bring any breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although the U.S. president would probably call upon both sides to return to the negotiation table to continue "meaningless" talks.
Some Jordanian experts believe Obama would only "pay lip service" during his visit and would fail to advance the Middle East peace process due to the complexity of the issue and the U.S. partiality for Israel.
Moreover, the emergence of other hot issues in the Middle East has diluted attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Therefore, they believe the settlement of Middle East problems would have to rely on the Arab people themselves, who must strengthen their inner unity, reach consensus on major issues and jointly safeguard the rights of the Arab people and the legal rights of the Palestinians.
They also contend that the UN and the international community should push for an early resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to produce an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 borderline based on the two-state solution.