NPR Story
10:25 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

President Obama, Palestinian President To Meet

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 2:14 pm

President Obama meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today at the White House, the next step in the long-running peace process being moderated by Secretary of State Kerry.

The Israeli-Palestinian talks have been going on for over nine months and the Obama administration is expected to use today’s meeting to pressure President Abbas to agree to a framework for more talks.

Aaron David Miller, a distinguished scholar at the Wilson Center, joins Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti to discuss the meeting.

Guest

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Transcript

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:

From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Meghna Chakrabarti. This is HERE AND NOW.

President Obama is meeting with Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas today at the White House. It's the next step in the long-running peace process that's being moderated by Secretary of State John Kerry. The talks have been going on for over nine months, and the Obama administration is expected to use today's meeting to pressure Abbas to agree to a framework for more talks.

Joining us now is Aaron David Miller, vice president for New Initiatives and a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Aaron David Miller, welcome back to the program.

AARON DAVID MILLER: Pleasure to be here.

CHAKRABARTI: So I understand that you're not terribly optimistic about what may come out of today's meeting primarily because you believe that Mahmoud Abbas can't deliver any kind of comprehensive peace agreements right now at all. Why is that?

MILLER: None of the parties right now have the will or the skill to essentially make the kinds of decisions that are required not just to reach an agreement on a piece of paper, but to reach an agreement on a comprehensive framework that could actually lead to implementation. Remember, the name of the game is to get from the negotiating table to the real world of implementation. Mahmoud Abbas is honorable. He's eschewed violence. He's not a dreamer, but he's trapped by Palestinian consensus, which gives him very little room to maneuver. So - but by and large, in a way, he's simply playing his card.

CHAKRABARTI: Hmm. Now, that Palestinian consensus that you mentioned has to do with the desire to, you know, the June 1967 borders, the capital in East Jerusalem, the very thorny issue of right of return. How does that differ at all from what - I mean, that has been the Palestinian consensus for some time.

MILLER: It has, actually. And the problem is, right now, you don't have a unified Palestinian national movement. You have a very tough-minded Israeli prime minister who has his own views on the issue of negotiations, and you have an American president that has demonstrated on this issue a sort of risk aversion rather than a risk readiness, the issue of how to bridge the gaps right now on these six core issues. Those decisions ultimately will have to be made by the president.

CHAKRABARTI: In that case, what would be, you know, the best outcome in your mind coming out of today's meeting in Washington?

MILLER: You got three possible outcomes. Number one, is an agreement on a framework to guide the negotiations, a piece of paper which would take Israelis and Palestinians farther than they've ever been on the core issues. I'm not sure that's available. Second, would be a highly flawed piece of paper, which would presume to close gaps but really not because it will allow each side to place their own interpretations on these matters and it would essentially undermine the integrity of the negotiation. But it's the third option, frankly, under the circumstances that I think may ultimately be the best. And that is to - in a spirit of - instead of mutual recrimination and ill will, get passed the April deadline - with a commitment from Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas and President Obama to continue to work on this issue.

Because at the end of the day, the president of the United States is going to have to make a decision. Is he going to be a facilitator? Or is he going to be a broker? And if he's going to be a broker, at some point in the next 18 months, probably after the midterms, he's going to have to take a look at each of these issues - Jerusalem, borders, security, refugees, recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and finality of claims and the end of conflict - and he's going to have to identify an American position on each of these and then try working with both sides to bridge the gap. That's the role of a traditional mediator. And if the president of the United States wants to leave a legacy on this issue, he's going to have to try to find a way - and it won't be easy - to bridge the gaps on all of those issues.

CHAKRABARTI: Aaron David Miller is the vice president for New Initiatives and a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Thank you so much.

MILLER: Pleasure.

CHAKRABARTI: You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.