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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to Israeli students at the International Convention Center on March 21, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. This is Obama's first visit as president to the region and his itinerary includes meetings with the Palestinian and Israeli leaders as well as a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
President Barack Obama met with Palestinian and Israeli leaders in the Middle East today. On this high-profile trip, he spoke of partnership, peace and negotiations, but made no declarations destined for the history books. Obama said this trip is about listening to stakeholders - just listening - perhaps in an effort to restart dialogue.
However, many are questioning whether the White House still holds a leadership position in conflict negotiations. Writing in The New York Times this month, history scholar Rashid Khalidi argues, "[U]nder four successive presidents, the United States, purportedly acting as an honest broker, did nothing to prevent Israel from gradually gobbling up the very land the two-state solution was to be based on."
On the other hand, Obama may be pushing back on Israeli settlement-building during backroom conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We can expect the President to be far more pointed in private than he has been in public," according to David Makovsky of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
What is Obama's diplomatic strategy? Have recent American presidents abandoned or poisoned this country's historic position in the region?
Rashid Khalidi, Professor of Modern Arab Studies, Columbia University; Author, newly published "Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. has Undermined Peace in the Middle East" (Beacon); former advisor to the Palestinian peace negotiators
David Makovsky, Director, Project on the Middle East Peace Process, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy - a think tank described as advancing U.S. interests in the Middle East; coauthor, with Dennis Ross, of "Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East" (2009, Viking/Penguin)