Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy brokered by the United States is rapidly heading toward a September crisis. President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu need to establish a new understanding quickly when they meet Tuesday at the White House or relations between the two governments will remain stormy and efforts to launch direct negotiations will fail.
The Arab League has given Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas until mid-September to negotiate in "proximity talks," in which the United States acts as a go-between. Arab League Chairman Amr Moussa has declared that he will take the Israeli-Palestinian issue to the U.N. Security Council if there is no progress by that deadline. So far, both the Israelis and Palestinians are taking an approach that puts the onus on the other. Israel will not engage in the most critical issues via indirect talks, which it sees as a major step back from nearly 20 years of face-to-face negotiations with the Palestinians. Instead, Israel awaits direct negotiations before revealing any substantive positions. The Palestinians, in turn, want to negotiate by proxy, since they say that if they enter direct talks, the Israeli leader would just play for time.