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Questions of Legitimacy Loom Over Abbas In Meeting with Obama

President Obama met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Thursday to discuss divisions among the Palestinian people and the ongoing controversy over Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Two Mideast analysts mull the outcome of the meeting.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    And for more on today's meeting and its aftermath, we're joined by Ghaith al-Omari, a former adviser to President Abbas, who's been involved in prior peace negotiations with the Israelis. He's now with the American Task Force on Palestine and a fellow at the Center for American Progress.

    And Robert Malley, who served as special assistant to President Clinton on Arab-Israeli affairs, he is now the Middle East program director at the International Crisis Group.

    Welcome to you both.

    Welcome back, Rob Malley. We actually all watched the full press conference this afternoon, which happened very, very late. What did you make from the body language and what you actually heard, in terms of how this meeting went?

  • ROBERT MALLEY, International Crisis Group:

    Well, if the meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu was tough and the speech that President Obama is going to give in Cairo will be a challenge, this was spring break. This was the presidents getting along and actually agreeing on virtually everything.

    It's hard to see where they might have disagreed in their private meeting. It certainly wasn't apparent in their public meeting. And I suspect that President Abbas comes back very comforted by what he heard, which is a president who said basically, "You're on the right track." That's what he said to the Palestinians, and saying to the Israelis, "Now you've got to get your act together."

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Is that how the Palestinians see it, from what you understand?

    GHAITH AL-OMARI, Center for American Progress: Absolutely. This was never a meeting about concrete results. This was a meeting about atmospherics.

    President Abbas and President Obama wanted to get a measure of one another. I think in that regard the meeting was very successful.

    Politically, the Palestinians heard everything they needed to hear: settlement freeze, two-state solution, and really no demands from the Palestinians at this particular juncture.