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September deadlines loom for Israel as Peres and Obama will meet

Obama had set a September goal for some kind of Middle East agreement. With Palestinians now weighing the declaration of a state, Israel's Shimon Peres has much to discuss at the White House.

By Staff writer / April 5, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Israeli President Shimon Peres at Blair House in Washington on April 4. Mr. Peres visits the White House Tuesday with two September deadlines bearing down on Israel – one from the Palestinians and one set by President Obama himself.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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Washington

Israeli President Shimon Peres visits the White House Tuesday with two September deadlines bearing down on Israel – one from the Palestinians and one set by President Obama himself.

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When Mr. Obama relaunched Middle East peace talks last September, he set a goal of reaching some kind of agreement within a year. The administration has never said the president has relinquished that goal, even as the unforeseen "Arab spring" has roiled the region.

But perhaps the bigger problem for Israel is a Palestinian plan, born of frustration over a moribund peace process, to leapfrog the model of incremental progress toward Palestinian statehood by simply having a Palestinian state declared at September’s gathering of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Top 5 issues on the table for Israeli-Palestinian talks

Today Israel occupies Palestinian “territories,” but the nightmare for Israel is that it would suddenly find itself occupying an independent member of the United Nations, and an Arab one at that. One need only recall how the world looked upon Saddam Hussein’s occupation of an independent Kuwait to understand the alarm bells some Israeli politicians are sounding.

US quiet on statehood option

The Obama administration has said in the past that it rejects as unhelpful any unilateral actions by either side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but so far the administration has been quiet on how it would approach a declaration of Palestinian statehood.

White House officials say Obama will discuss regional security and the Mideast turmoil with Mr. Peres, as well as ideas for getting the peace process moving again. But the challenges waiting in September are also a certain, if uncomfortable, agenda item.

“If you are a recognized state and you are occupied, you have a right to fight,” says Amjad Atallah, director of the Middle East task force at the New America Foundation in Washington.

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