Obama’s day: Ending war, seeking peace

September 1st, 2010 by Staff

Source: USA Today — Happy September from The Oval, chronicler of all things presidential, including a spanking new Oval Office!

President Obama will “turn the page” today from his dramatic Tuesday night speech announcing the end of combat operations in Iraq to a process that’s more like watching paint dry: making peace in the Middle East.

It won’t be easy, as the terrorist attack that killed four Israeli settlers in the West Bank showed Tuesday. The work was that of a Palestinian gunman; the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, praised the attack.

After a quick check on Hurricane Earl, Obama begins the biggest diplomatic initiative of his presidency with what the diplo world calls a series of “bilaterals” — one-on-one Oval Office meetings with the leaders of Israel and the Palestine Authority, along with fellow watchdogs Egypt and Jordan. Then they all get together for a ceremonial “working dinner” in the Old Family Dining Room.

The guest list includes:

* Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
* Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
* Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
* Jordan’s King Abdullah II
* Quartet Representative Tony Blair (the “Quartet” includes the U.S., Russia, European Union and United Nations)

Hovering over the talks and eats will be Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who’s also embarking on her most difficult diplomatic mission, and Middle East special envoy George Mitchell, a wunderkind mediator who engineered peace in Northern Ireland more than a decade ago.

As long as everyone likes the food, they’ll wake up Thursday ready to talk turkey, er, peace. The real negotiating begins at the State Department with a “trilateral” that includes Netanyahu, Abbas and Clinton.

If all goes well, a looooong process will commence, with talks every two weeks or so at international sites to be determined. The two sides are giving themselves a year to settle their considerable differences. “It’s very important to create a sense that this has a definite concluding point,” Mitchell said Tuesday.

Before the Middle East talks begin, Obama has a hurricane to attend to. He’ll get on a call with Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate “to ensure we are doing everything in our power to keep people safe before the storm affects the East Coast, and that we are supporting survivors of the storm in our Caribbean territories,” the White House says.

And, of course, the day will be otherwise dominated with rhetorical fallout from Obama’s speech on Iraq. His every word will be analyzed. They will be compared with similar declarations of past presidents. The war’s seven-year history will be recalled and debated.

Check back often with the Oval for updates on the day’s historic Oval Office meetings. And have a great September!

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