PM Netanyahu, and President Abbas

PM Netanyahu and President Abbas to meet in Washington

The Israelis and the Palestinians will meet and resume talks today.  This is the first time since December, 2008, that they have met. 

Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas were optimistic, but guarded, about the hopes for a resolution.  Officials in the Obama administration have downplayed expectations.

At the formal opening ceremony for the negotiations, Hillary Clinton said that the United States will not offer a solution, but instead be a partner in helping the two parties achieve a peaceful resolution. She noted that the road would be tough, and that opponents would try to sabotage the process.

Clinton’s comments were a sober reminder of a particularly thorny issue.  In control of the Gaza Strip since 2007, Hamas has used violence to disrupt peace negotiations in the past. That gruesome tradition continued on the eve of the talks, when four Israeli’s were killed, and two injured, in two separate attacks in the Gaza Strip.  Hamas has claimed responsiblity for those attacks.

President Obama held a working dinner with  Abbas, Natanyahu, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, prior to the talks on Thursday. Obama said that he was cautious, yet hopeful, that it was possible to achieve the goals all four leaders share.