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March 21st, 2013
08:08 AM ET

Fmr. Ambassador Holliday: President Obama's meeting with Palestinian President Abbas 'a significant visit'

Today, President Obama is in the West Bank city of Ramallah for the second leg of his historic Middle East visit. He is meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the possibility of reviving peace talks in the region. The president has said he is prepared to listen, and hasn't come with a peace plan. The two leaders will talk at a working lunch and will then address the media.

But the trip is already marred by violence. Two rockets fired from Gaza  landed in the southern Israel city of Sderot hours earlier, while the president was about 60 miles away in Jerusalem. There are reports of property damage but no injuries.

Stuart Holliday, president and CEO of the Meridian International Center and fmr. former U.S. Ambassador special political affairs to the UN Security Council, weighs in on Obama’s meeting with Abbas today and how the attacks may have affected it. Holliday says the rocket attacks are a reminder that the Palestinian Authority does not control Gaza and that the Palestinian government is divided, highlighting "the weakness that we face in terms of the talks restarting."

Holliday calls the president's trip a significant visit, but notes that the Palestinians are very skeptical about what the president hopes to accomplish.  “I think it's a mixed bag,” Holliday says. “But I do believe that they would view the president's visit, and the look for any opportunity to get these talks restarted. And of course, they've been on the sidelines, waiting for what they see as a critical issue, for these settlements to halt. Whereas Israelis have said, look, ‘we're ready to talk at any point as long as you don't put preconditions on these talks.’”

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