US President Barack Obama told Orthodox Jewish leaders on Tuesday that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority may be too politically weak to deliver a peace agreement and that he fears that the window of opportunity for a deal is closing.
The meeting, organised by the Orthodox Union and its Washington director Nathan Diament with White House Chief-of-Staff Jack Lew, is the second such meeting members of the US Jewish community have had at the White House in recent weeks.
Obama told those in attendance that one reason he had pushed so aggressively for a peace agreement in the first two years of his term was due to the fact that the political positions of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad might quickly deteriorate. Nevertheless, Obama said he intends to continue to promote the two-state solution.
Obama, according to participants, also said that both sides needed to act and that the Israeli notion that he had required unilateral steps from Jerusalem was inaccurate, but that the public and media paid less notice to the demands also made of Palestinians.
Meanwhile, according to a Jerusalem Post report this morning, Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah said yesterday they were “surprised” to read statements attributed to US President Barack Obama from the meeting to the effect that Abbas is not interested in peace.
Various media outlets quoted Obama as telling American Orthodox representatives during a meeting at the White House on Tuesday that it was “possible” that Abbas may no longer be interested in peace and that the window for peace negotiations may already have closed.
Some of Abbas’s aides said they were expecting “clarifications” from the US Administration before commenting on the remarks.