AP | MSNBC | 11/14/2010 | 5:03:09 PM ET
President Barack Obama on Sunday hailed the prospect of a new settlement freeze in the disputed West Bank as a promising step toward peace, urging Israelis and Palestinians to get back into serious negotiations quickly. An upbeat president also pledged to return to the basic principles that drove his thinking when he first came to the White House, including sticking to a more bipartisan tone and better explaining his decisions to the American people.
He spoke of moving from an "obsessive focus" on policy and making changes to his approach after a humbling midterm election. "The fact that we are out of crisis — although still obviously in a difficult time — I think will give me the capacity," Obama told reporters aboard Air Force One at the end of long Asia trip.
On the Mideast, Washington’s new proposal for reviving peace talks includes a 90-day ban on housing starts in West Bank settlements — but not in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital. The goal is to give the two sides a three-month period to shape borders of side-by-side states, a daunting, elusive mission. Obama commended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for making a "very constructive step" toward creating an environment for peace. "I think it’s a signal that he’s serious," Obama said.
U.S. officials said Netanyahu told the administration that he supports the plan and will try to win approval from his Cabinet. Obama said he hopes the Israeli leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will resume negotiations soon. A previous 10-month moratorium in the West Bank expired Sept. 26, and talks have stalled, casting doubt about the notion of a peace deal within a year’s time, as Obama has sought. Just a few days ago, during a stop in Indonesia, Obama acknowledged he was worried about the peace process and urged both sides to show more effort.
Looking rested after two legs of an all-night flight from Asia, Obama on Sunday made an unannounced visit to the press cabin of Air Force One just before the plane landed at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington. The president sounded optimistic about getting Senate ratification of a new U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty during the postelection session of Congress, during which lawmakers try to push through matters before a new Congress convenes.
Reuters | 11/13/2010 | 7:04:22 PM ET
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed ministers a five-point U.S. peace plan that included a 90-day settlement freeze, a diplomatic source told reporters on Saturday. The plan also includes a pledge not to seek any extension to the settlement freeze after the 90-day period, a vow to veto any attempts at the United Nations to force a unilateral peace deal and an agreement on supplying Israel with more war planes.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, renewed under Washington’s sponsorship on September 2, broke down a few weeks later when Israel balked at renewing a settlement moratorium.
Netanyahu met his top "Forum of Seven" ministers a day after returning from a week-long U.S. tour that included talks on Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at which she unveiled the plan he showed his cabinet, the source said. Netanyahu hopes he may win approval for the plan from his pro-settler cabinet later this week, political sources said.
Among the pledges offered to Israel by Washington, was a guarantee to veto any resolutions brought to the United Nations Security Council that seek "to impose a political settlement on Israel," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had no immediate comment. Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the Palestinian leader was likely to wait to see whether Israel approved the ideas before issuing any comment.
An additional freeze
Under the plan Israel would "declare an additional suspension of construction" in the West Bank, land it captured from Jordan in a 1967 war, for 90 days. Building begun since a moratorium ended in September, would be halted, the source said. The proposed construction freeze would not include East Jerusalem, an area Israel has annexed as part of its capital in a move never recognized internationally and which Palestinians want as capital of any future state.
More than 430,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, alongside 2.5 million Palestinians
20,000 settlers live in the Golan Heights
Settlements and the area they take up cover 40% of the West Bank
There are about 100 settlements not authorised by the Israeli govt in the West Bank
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to conclude three days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. With no sign of a deal on settlement building in the West Bank, Mr Abbas said there was no choice but to continue negotiating. President Mubarak of Egypt has urged Israel to extend the partial ban on construction for three months. Mrs Clinton repeated her confidence that all core issues could be resolved.
As Mrs Clinton arrived in Ramallah in the West Bank, Mr Abbas said everyone knew there was no alternative to peace through negotiations. "So we have no alternative other than to continue these efforts," he said. The Palestinian leader acknowledged that conditions were difficult, and a senior Palestinian official was quoted as saying that broad gaps remained on the question of settlements. Neither Mrs Clinton nor Mr Abbas spoke after the meeting. The US secretary of state then travelled to Jordan for a meeting with King Abdullah II. Jordan already has a peace treaty with Israel, and King Abdullah took part in
BBC News | 20 August 2010 | 18:11 GMT
Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resume direct negotiations for the first time in 20 months, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been invited to Washington on 2 September to start the talks. They have agreed to place a one-year time limit on the direct negotiations. But correspondents say prospects of a comprehensive deal are slim, as serious disagreements exist on the core issues. Sensitive areas – including the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied territory, the status of Jerusalem, the borders of a future Palestinian state and the right of return – will be difficult to overcome.
Speaking at the state department, Mrs Clinton said President Barack Obama had been encouraged by the leadership of Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas, and had invited them to Washington to “relaunch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year”. “President Obama has invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend, in view of their critical role in this effort. Their continued leadership and commitment to peace will be essential to our success,” she added. Mr Obama will hold meetings with the four leaders, followed by a dinner with them, on 1 September. Tony Blair, the special representative of the Middle East Quartet – which comprises the US, the UN, the EU and Russia – has also been invited.
A trilateral meeting at the state department between Mrs Clinton, Mr Abbas and Mr Netanyahu will formally relaunch the direct peace talks the following day. “As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it. There have been difficulties in the past, there will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles,” Mrs Clinton said. “But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region,” she added. “These negotiations should take place without preconditions and be characterised by good faith and a commitment to their success, which will bring a better future to all of the people of the region.” Continue reading
BBC News | 16 August 2010 | 05:32 GMT
Israeli troops have begun demolishing a concrete wall erected nine years ago to protect a Jewish settlement on the outskirts of East Jerusalem at Gilo. The settlement, which Israel regards as a neighbourhood of Jerusalem, came under fire from the Palestinian village of Beit Jala in 2000. An Israeli military spokesman said the wall was no longer needed because security had improved. The wall was a precursor to the barrier built along the West Bank.
Israel says the barrier is necessary to stop suicide attacks, but rights groups have complained that it has made life for Palestinians very difficult. Israel built the settlement at Gilo on land it captured in 1967. The settlement lies across a narrow valley from Beit Jala, and so became a target for Palestinian militants during the second Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in 2000. The Israelis built the 3m-high (10ft) concrete wall to protect the settlement, but Israeli officials say security is no longer a problem.
BBC News | 29 July 2010 | 15:25 GMT
The Arab League has endorsed direct Palestinian peace talks with the Israelis, but has left the timing to the Palestinians, officials said. The US has been pushing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to restart the direct talks, suspended since 2008. Mr Abbas has demanded a settlement freeze and a return to 1967 borders as a precondition of direct talks. Correspondents say the move by the Arab League makes it likely the talks will resume in the coming months. The Palestinian president is now expected to return to Ramallah and seek endorsement for the direct talks from a meeting of Palestinian factions, says the BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly stated he wants direct talks to start as soon as possible. In response to the Arab League decision, his office released a statement saying he was "ready to start, already in the next few days, direct and frank talks with the Palestinian Authority".
The Arab League agreed in principle to direct talks with Israel provided the Palestinians saw fit, said Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who chaired a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. "Of course, there is agreement, but agreement over the principles of what will be discussed and the manner of the direct negotiations," he said. But the timing of the direct talks was "a matter for the Palestinian side to decide", he said. Mr Netanyahu has said he is ready to discuss all the core issues of the decades-old conflict, and has accused the Palestinians of avoiding direct talks. Mr Abbas wants Israel to agree to a complete halt in settlement construction and to accept a Palestinian state in territories seized in the 1967 Middle East war – the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
AP | Yahoo | 11/07/2010 | 03:18 pm
The Palestinian president, who is under U.S. pressure to resume direct talks with Israel, said that doing so under current circumstances would be pointless. The remarks by Mahmoud Abbas underline his determination not to return to the table unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commits to an internationally mandated settlement freeze and agrees to pick up talks where they left off under the Israeli leader’s predecessor in Dec. 2008. Netanyahu hasn’t agreed to either demand, and has so far curbed but not frozen settlement activity. He insists negotiations should be held without any preconditions. President Barack Obama called Abbas last week, following the U.S. president’s meeting with Netanyahu. The White House said Obama and Abbas talked about ways to revive direct talks soon.
"We have presented our vision and thoughts and said that if progress is made, we will move to direct talks, but that if no progress is made, it (direct negotiations) will be futile," Abbas said in a speech late Saturday. "If they (the Israelis) say `come and let’s start negotiations from zero,’ that is futile and pointless," Abbas added. The Palestinians say they that after 17 years of intermittent talks, they don’t want to start all over again, especially with an Israeli leader who has retreated from positions presented by his predecessors. In the absence of direct talks, a U.S. envoy has been shuttling between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in recent weeks. Abbas’ aide Yasser Abed Rabbo told Palestinian radio Sunday that the Palestinians don’t want to enter open-ended negotiations with Israel. "There must be a … timetable, a framework for these negotiations," he said. "We will not enter new negotiations that could take more than 10 years."