Palestinian Authority officials told American media on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama had disgraced Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas by forcing him to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly earlier in the day.
The brief three-way hand-shaking session was "a disgrace to the PA" and a "surrender to Israel," said one Palestinian official. Another called it "a desperate diplomatic step by the American government."
Abbas had previously refused to meet with Netanyahu until the latter put an end to all Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and on the eastern side of Jerusalem. The Palestinian leader had used his hardline position to win favor on the Palestinian street.
But a senior US official told Ha'aretz that Obama made clear to both Netanyahu and Abbas that he was growing impatient with their foot-dragging and their failure to restart meaningful bilateral negotiations. The president gave both the Israelis and Palestinians three weeks to come up with answers that would enable a resumption of talks.
The source described the meeting as "businesslike," but anything but cordial.
Following the meeting, Netanyahu told Israeli reporters that Abbas had been pressured to drop his preconditions, and that as soon as a proper framework for negotiations could be agreed upon, talks would resume. He did warn, however, that if the Palestinians did not drop their refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, then negotiations would quickly fall apart.
Abbas, meanwhile, appeared to actually harden his demands, issuing a statement insisting that nothing short of an Israeli commitment to surrender every inch of Judea and Samaria, including the eastern half of Jerusalem, would result in a resumption of full peace negotiations.