U.S. President Barack Obama is hosting a joint meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in New York Tuesday in an effort to restart Middle East peace talks.
All sides have been careful not to raise hopes about the meeting, which will take place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday U.S. officials have “no grand expectations” about the possibility of a breakthrough.
Nir Hefetz, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says Mr. Netanyahu will not give in to U.S. and Palestinian demands for a stop to Israeli settlement construction.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to keep the settlement issue a key condition of resuming peace talks.
Palestinian leaders say building more Jewish homes on land Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War threatens their efforts to create a viable state and stalls peace efforts.
Israel says some construction is necessary to accommodate the natural growth of Jewish families living in occupied East Jerusalem.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted by The New York Times newspaper Monday, saying he fears the Palestinians will miss an opportunity for peace.
He says the U.S. president has clearly pledged to use his political influence to make sure there is an independent Palestinian state, and to resolve core issues in two years. Barak called this an opportunity not to be missed.
Photo credit: Courtesy of White House photo 2/10/09 by Pete Souza