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State of the Union Address Raises Doubts about Mideast Peace Process

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Robert Berger

People in the Middle East were watching closely as U.S. President Barack Obama gave his annual State of the Union address, setting out his domestic and foreign policy agenda. 

For Israelis and Palestinians, it is not what President Obama said in his State of the Union address, but what he did not say. 

Mr. Obama did not mention the Mideast conflict.  That is being interpreted here as the United States taking a step back from the peace process, after a year of failed efforts to resume negotiations.

When the president took office a year ago he vowed to make the peace process a top priority.  But Israeli analyst Eitan Gilboa says that with U.S. midterm elections coming up in November, Mr. Obama is likely to put the Israeli-Palestinian issue on the back burner.

"The Obama administration failed to restart the process, and I think that he cannot afford, given the results so far, and the coming election year in the United States, to take any bold issues that could be very risky for him," Gilboa said.

A Palestinian businessman in East Jerusalem, Ali Abu Garbiyeh, says Mr. Obama, like his predecessors, is unwilling to pressure Israel to trade land for peace. 

"The Israelis, they want the land, they want the peace, they want the security, they want everything.  That is why I know Obama, he can do nothing," Garbiyeh said.

The Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table until Israel freezes all settlement construction, but Israel says peace talks should resume without preconditions.  And in the wake of the State of the Union address, expectations are low for bridging the gaps. 

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