Abbas Goes to Washington

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, pauses, during a media conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, not seen, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, April 22, 2009. (AP)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a media conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 22, 2009. (AP)

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The first foreign leader Barack Obama called after assuming the presidency was Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Tomorrow, Abbas and Obama meet at the White House. Their agenda: difficult, and almost too well known. A two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis; a stop to Israeli settlement in the West Bank; what to do about the Palestinians' own split, with Hamas.

Ten days ago, it was Obama and Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office. Now, the other side.

This hour, On Point: Mideast watchers Juan Cole and Rashid Khalidi on Obama and Abbas.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.Guests:

Joining us from Washington is Gerald Seib, executive Washington editor of The Wall Street Journal, where he writes the Capital Journal column. He’s co-author with John Harwood of “Pennsylvania Avenue: Profiles in Backroom Power.”

Juan Cole joins us from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is professor of Middle East and South Asian history at the University of Michigan and author of "Engaging the Muslim World" (2009), "Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2007) and "Sacred Space and Holy War: The Politics, Culture and History of Shiite Islam" (2002). He blogs about the Middle East, history, and religion at Informed Comment.

Rashid Khalidi joins us from New York. He is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University and author of "Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East" (2009) and "The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood" (2006).

This program aired on May 27, 2009.


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