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Barack and Bibi shadow box in first meeting -

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PETER CAVE: The US President Barack Obama has begun his foray into the Middle East peace quagmire.

He's told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he should grasp what he's termed an "historic
opportunity" to make peace with the Palestinians.

But the Israeli leader has failed to explicitly endorse the creation of a Palestinian state.

Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: Today's Oval Office meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was
President Barack Obama's first chance to revive the stalled Middle East peace talks.

BARACK OBAMA: It is, I believe in the interests not only of the Palestinians, but also the Israelis
and the United States and the international community to achieve a two-state solution in which
Israelis and Palestinians are living side by side in peace and security.

KIM LANDERS: Prime Minister Netanyahu deliberately avoided saying that Israel accepts a two-state
solution.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: And I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live
side by side in dignity and security and in peace.

KIM LANDERS: But the Israeli leader has promised he wants to restart talks with the Palestinians as
soon as possible.

The differences in tone and terminology didn't come solely on the question of a two-state solution.

President Obama said Israeli settlements have to be stopped.

Prime Minister Netanyahu didn't mention them.

Daniel Levy is a former Israeli peace negotiator who's now the director of the Middle East Task
Force at the New America Foundation.

He's played down the Israeli leader's offer to restart negotiations with the Palestinians.

DANIEL LEVY: It's almost totally meaningless. You have two sides that, of their own volition, will
continue to negotiate indefinitely. On the Palestinian side, they are too discredited and weak and
dependent on Israel the US to actually make decisions.

On the Israeli side they probably don't want to, from Bibi's perspective, take the steps in terms
of rolling back the occupation that would be necessary to get a deal.

The only way to take these parties out of the comfort zone is to come up with a new way of going
about doing things. Going back to bilateral negotiations isn't that.

KIM LANDERS: Aaron David Miller is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre for
International Scholars in Washington.

He's been an advisor to six US secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli negotiations.

He says the US can only get by for so long on speeches and meetings and soon the Obama
Administration has to have a strategy to reach an agreement.

AARON DAVID MILLER: In the end that is the standard by which you need to judge what will come and
what will work. And I don't think it's any clearer to me today that we're any closer to that point.

So we shouldn't read too much into the fact that President Obama told the Israelis that settlements
are a problem and they've got to stop, and that Benjamin Netanyahu refused to say "two-state
solution"?

I participated in I can't tell you how many meetings with secretaries of state and Israeli leaders
over the years in which secretaries of state said, "You know, you have to stop or restrict
settlement activity."

Well, guess what? Nothing ever happens.

So the question is not just to say something, the question is... I get back to the issue of
strategy. What is the administration going to do?

KIM LANDERS: How long has the Obama administration got to set out that plan?

AARON DAVID MILLER: Oh, I think it's got a long time, depending on whether or not the President has
identified this issue to be one of his signature issues.

I mean, I think what's significant in part out of the meeting today is that the image was that
here's President Yes-we-can, who is sitting down with Prime Minister No-you-won't.

And there was going to be a big explosion, or some tension in the US-Israeli relationship. Well, in
effect that's not what I saw today.

Differences of opinion expressed within the broader perimeters of two guys trying to figure out,
"Can I work with this guy? Is he out to undermine me? Is he out to con me? Is he out to pressure
me?"

Did these two guys leave this meeting thinking, "Uh-huh. This guy I can work with. We've got
differences - I can work with him."

Or, "Is this guy out to screw me?"

That is the core question. And how Obama and Netanyahu now answer that question today, at the end
of the day - and we don't know - is really important; really important.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.