President Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House Thursday for their first face-to-face talks in 20 months.
Israel wants Abbas to recognize it as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital. Abbas wants a permanent freeze on Jewish building in the West Bank.
In his last cabinet meeting before the direct talks, Netanyahu said he will seek an agreement but he won't allow concessions of territory to hurt Israel's security, like the last two withdrawals did in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
Both Netanyahu and Abbas have been feeling the heavy hand of the Obama administration, and it's likely that neither one is looking forward to the kind of three-way handshakes that have led to nothing in the past.
Many in the Middle East share their skepticism.
"I cannot say that I am extremely optimistic because the Palestinians seem to be too weak to deliver or to make historical decisions on their part," Israeli Cabinet Member Yuval Steinitz said.
In an address before his trip to Washington, Abbas told the Palestinians that Israel is completely responsible for the success or failure of the talks. He has promised to quit the talks if Israel does not extend its building freeze in the West Bank. The freeze is set to expire on Sept. 26.
U.S. and European leaders say the talks should continue despite the skeptics.
"I know some say it is all for show. I reject that view," Tony Blair, Quartet envoy to the Middle East, said. "I think if Israel can receive real and effective guarantees about its security, then it is willing and ready to conclude a negotiation for a viable independent Palestinian state."
Supporters of the talks have said little about the role of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and is committed to Israel's destruction.
Hamas has condemned the upcoming meeting in Washington.