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(photo credit: Beit Hanssi)
Although the Obama administration apparently hoped US Middle East envoy George Mitchell's current visit would yield an announcement on the resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Mitchell in Jerusalem on Friday ended without any statements issued to the press.
American and Israeli officials on Thursday said they had little hope of a breakthrough ahead of Mitchell's meeting on Friday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
"Simply put, it is past time to talk about starting negotiations," US President Barack Obama said in September 22's trilateral meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu in New York. "It is time to move forward... Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon."
But in recent days, both the Israelis and the Americans have sought to lower expectations after witnessing the political pummeling Abbas has suffered in the wake of his decision to withdraw a motion to the UN Human Rights Council on the Goldstone Report.
Abbas has faced harsh condemnation for the move, which was carried out at the urging of the Americans and because Israel is loath to begin negotiations while the PA advances international motions against it. Egypt and the Arab League publicly excoriated him for it, and he was forced to cancel a visit to Syria after a round of criticism from Damascus.
According to one senior Israeli official, the ball is currently in the Palestinian court, and it is unclear whether Abbas is politically able to conduct meaningful negotiations.
The PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Thursday he would attend next week's UN Security Council debate on the Goldstone police will add to this, but police are prepared for such a scenario."
However, Levy said, even if riots were to break out in the Arab neighborhoods surrounding the Old City, the violence would likely wane after a few hours.
"Palestinians in Jerusalem are not interested in a prolonged conflict," he said. "They are more interested in going about their daily lives and making a living."
"But the best way to deal with these situations is overwhelming force," Levy said. "Officers everywhere, helicopters in the air. Once you establish that police have been deployed in large numbers and have command of the situation, it dissuades many people from starting problems. This way, you can stop the riots before they even start."