Thursday, September 02, 2010

Pool Report: Obama and Abbas and Netanyahu vists, Wednesday Sept 1, 2010

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At roughly 7:45 p.m. President Obama and visiting leaders from Israel, Palestine and neighboring states concluded press statements commemorating the start of formal peace negotiations.

The White House will provide the remarks from Obama, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, King Abdullah of Jordan, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

For the time being, a bit of color: the five leaders entered the East Room at a little past 7:00 p.m. All dressed in dark suits, Obama walked to the lectern while the others promptly took seats on the podium. From the president’s right sat Mubarak, Abdullah, Netanyahu and Abbas, in that order. In the audience were delegations from each country, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Michael Oren, the Ambassador of Israel to the United States was visible as well.

Obama spoke first, extolling the virtues of securing peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Mubarak took the lectern next, at roughly 7:07 p.m., offering his appreciation to the president for hosting the discussions.

“I consider this invitation the manifestation of your commitment,” he said, according to the real time translation of his comments, “and a significant message that the U.S. will shepherd these negotiations seriously and at the highest level.”

The Egyptian header also urged Israelis to “seize the current opportunity” and “not let it slip through your fingers.” He finished his remarks at approximately 7:18 p.m., shook hands with Abdullah, and took his seat.

Abdullah spoke next, in English. Addressing his fellow leaders he said: “All eyes are upon us. The direct negotiations that start tomorrow must show results and sooner rather than later.” (Check against transcript.) At one point in his talk, Netanyahu and Abbas were caught whispering to each other.

Netanyahu was next, again speaking in English. The Israeli Prime Minister condemned yesterday’s attacks by Hamas, which resulting in the death of four Israelis. He also addressed, briefly, Iranian-sponsored terrorism. But his remarks were directed primarily towards his hopes to move the peace talks forward. 

“Every peace begins with leader,” he said. “President Abbas, you are my partner in peace and it is up to us, with the help of others, to conclude the agonizing conflict between our people.”

At the conclusion of his comments, there was applause. Netanyahu and Abbas shook hands as the two passed each other on stage. They exchanged several words but your pooler was unable to make out what was said.

Abbas started speaking at 7:33. He condemned the Hamas attacks but also stressed a need to end the Israeli “occupation that started in 1967.”  He concluded at roughly 7:40 p.m. by expressing his hopes that he and Netanyahu would “sign an agreement” to put an end to the conflict. There was applause for those remarks as well.

President Obama gave a brief, concluding statement. Once that was done the other leaders stood up to leave. Standing stage right, Abbas and Netanyahu started chatting again. Obama walked over to the two of them, put his hand on Abbas and joined the conversation, which lasted only a few seconds before they walked out of the East Room, en route to their working dinner.

And with that, we have a lid.

Sam Stein
Senior Political Reporter
Huffington Post