RAMALLAH, March 1 (Xinhua) -- The upcoming Palestinian-Israeli talks in Washington could be decisive for the future of the Middle East peace process, analysts and officials say, noting if no deal is sealed, a nine-month ultimatum for the talks could be extended.
U.S. President Barack Obama is slated to meet soon with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House.
Observers believe it could be a "decisive moment" for the future of the Middle East peace process.
The United States sponsors the direct peace talks between the two sides. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry helped start these talks in late July last year, and also set a nine-month deadline for them to sign a framework peace agreement. But no significant progress has been made in the talks so far.
Netanyahu is heading to Washington on Sunday to meet with Obama, and Abbas will meet with the U.S. president on March 17. Reports unveiled that Obama will exert pressure on the two leaders to accept the U.S.-sponsored framework agreement.
Obama's invitation to both Netanyahu and Abbas came after Kerry and Abbas failed last week in Paris to bridge their gap on the framework agreement.
Mekhemer Abu Se'da, a political science professor at al-Azhar University in Gaza, said it's obvious that the talks have reached a deadlock, and the Washington talks aim to find a way out of the current stalemate.
"Any new American ideas won't end the impasse; therefore the U. S. intends to extend the nine-month ultimatum for the talks to avoid failure and give the parties more time to explore solutions and ideas," says Abu Se'da.
The professor warns that a collapse of the peace negotiations " would certainly have negative consequences on the U.S. image in the world and on the ties between Israel and the Palestinians."
Samir Aawd, a West Bank-based political analyst agrees with Se' da. He said if the two sides fail to reach an agreement this time, "the United States will at least announce an extension of the talks."
A well-informed Palestinian official also said the Palestinians may accept extending the talks, if the deal includes a release of more Palestinian prisoners held in Israel and an undeclared cessation of building Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
"Let's wait for the results of Obama-Netanyahu meeting this week and what would Obama grab from Netanyahu to push forward the peace process, and let's wait for what Obama would ask from President Abbas," says the official.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Awad, a political analyst based in the West Bank city of Nablus, expects that President Obama will personally intervene and present serious ideas on reaching a permanent peace agreement.
"Apparently, the U.S. wants to discuss these ideas face-to-face with both men to set up a scenario that amends the current ideas," says Awad. "In general, the United States, Israel and the Palestinians are not interested in declaring any failure in the peace talks."
Some Palestinians still believe that the United States has not done enough to meet their demands during the talks.
Hanan Ashrawi, a female member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee, said that she feels a retreat in the position of the United States "because the document that Kerry is preparing doesn't meet the Palestinian demands."
Bassam Salhi, secretary general of the left-wing Palestinian People Party, said the United States favors the Israeli positions instead of international resolutions. He calls on other countries like China and Russia to play a more effective role in the peace process.