Copyright ©2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington this week. Among those he met with was President Obama. The two men spent an hour talking alone in the Oval Office about the Middle East peace process.

But NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr doesnt expect real negotiations to start anytime soon.

DANIEL SCHORR: The Israeli-Palestinian standoff shows no sign of getting better, and it may soon be getting worse. Both parties, under pressure from their own constituencies, are frozen in place.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not halt settlement activity, and he offers only restraint, a nonstarter for peace negotiations. Netanyahu calls for immediate negotiations looking towards an independent Palestinian state. But his precondition is a demilitarized state, another nonstarter. A state that cannot defend itself is not a sovereign state.

Protracted deadlock is not a new feature of the oldest established conflict in the world. But the tension has been heightened by a continuing dispute over the United Nations report on the Israeli attack on Gaza in January. The report concluded that the attack represented an overreaction to the missiles fired into Israel from northern Gaza. Israel denounces the report as biased.

All this tends to undermine the authority of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his rivalry with the more militant Hamas in Gaza. Abbas has responded by threatening to retire. That may be a stratagem intended to force the hand of Israel, but maybe not. The resignation of Abbas would mean the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, which has been acting as a sort of shadow government on the West Bank.

The Obama administration has been strenuously working to find some common ground between the Palestinians and Israel. Special envoy George Mitchell, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama, as recently as Monday, have all appealed to Netanyahu to moderate his position on settlements to keep Abbas in the game.

So far, at least, Netanyahu stands firm. And if the moderate Mahmoud Abbas steps down, this opens the way to Hamas, which has been designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization.

This is Daniel Schorr.

(Soundbite of music)

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.