In Israel, Obama warns Syria on chemical weapons

by
March 21, 2013

JERUSALEM | President Barack Obama faces a stony reception when he travels to the West Bank on Thursday for talks with Palestinian leaders who accuse him of letting Israel ride rough-shod over their dream of statehood.

Obama has said he will not bring any new initiatives to try to revive long-dormant peace talks and has instead come to Israel and the Palestinian territories for simple consultations.

Arriving in Israel on Wednesday, the main focus of initial discussions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to be pressing regional concerns, primarily Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the civil war in neighboring Syria.

After repeated run-ins with Netanyahu during Obama’s first term in office, the mood between the two men appeared to be much warmer, angering Palestinians, who blame the 2010 collapse of U.S.-backed peace negotiations on the Israeli leader’s expansion of Jewish settlements on land where they want their state.

Obama is to address the decades-old conflict in talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and also in a keynote speech just hours later to a large audience of carefully screened Israeli students in Jerusalem.

But after the lofty ambitions of his first term, when he appointed a special envoy to the Middle East on his very first day in charge and said peacemaking was a priority, it was clear that Obama has now set the bar significantly lower.

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