|President Barack Obama along with (from left to right) Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House: Jason Reed/Reuters|
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Wednesday not to let the chance for peace slip away, bringing them together for ceremonial handshakes at the White House on the eve of relaunching direct talks.
But with a fresh West Bank shooting attack and a persistent deadlock over Jewish settlements, Obama acknowledged skepticism "in some quarters" about his prospects for succeeding where so many U.S. leaders have failed and said he was under no illusions about the tough challenges ahead.
Wading into peacemaking a day before the resumption of face-to-face negotiations after a 20-month hiatus, Obama strode to the podium flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah.
Netanyahu and Abbas shook hands and voiced commitment to the U.S.-sponsored diplomatic drive, which sets a one-year target for reaching a peace deal on Palestinian statehood, a time frame most analysts call a long shot.
"As I told each of them today, this moment of opportunity may not soon come again. They cannot afford to let it slip away," Obama said earlier after one-on-one talks with Netanyahu and Abbas before hosting all the leaders for dinner.
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