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."
BBC NEWS | 2010/03/26 | 10:36:32 GMT
The Israeli prime minister says his policy on Jerusalem will not change – a sign that a row with the US over settlement building remains unresolved. Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement came as he was due to brief cabinet colleagues on talks with President Barack Obama. The US says some progress was made. The row is over Israeli plans to build 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians want their capital. After the announcement they pulled out of planned US-mediated peace talks. Israel insists the Jerusalem will remain its undivided capital. Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.
The row over Israel’s plans for homes in East Jerusalem has caused one of the worst crises in US-Israeli ties for decades. Israel unveiled the plans to build in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo during a visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden – a move which Washington initially branded an insult. Hours before Mr Netanyahu’s meeting with Mr Obama on Tuesday, it emerged that the Jerusalem municipal government had approved another development in occupied East Jerusalem. The White House has been trying to persuade Mr Netanyahu to commit to several trust-building measures to revive hopes for indirect "proximity talks" between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israeli media reports say Mr Netanyahu told the US president he needed to consult with his cabinet, which includes far-right wingers who are strongly opposed to the division of Jerusalem, before reaching agreement. "The prime minister’s position is that there is no change in Israel’s
Reuters | Thu Mar 25, 2010 | 4:25pm IST
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ended a troubled US visit on Thursday with no apparent resolution of a serious dispute with Washington over Jewish housing in occupied East Jerusalem. Despite his hints at potential compromise, Israeli commentators saw failure to secure a deal with US President Barack Obama and said tensions with Washington appeared to have been left unresolved. Israeli President Shimon Peres, the country’s elder statesman, said Netanyahu "apparently … did not reach an understanding with the United States of America".
Newspaper headlines in Israel’s two largest dailies, Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv, said Netanyahu’s "back was to the wall" and Israel was in a rare confrontation with America. "A worsening of the crisis with the US", said a headline in the Haaretz daily. Palestinians want a complete settlement freeze in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank. Citing biblical and historical links, Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, a claim that has not won international recognition.
CABINET TO MEET
"The president asked the prime minister to take steps to build confidence for proximity talks so that progress can be made toward comprehensive peace," Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs said, referring to indirect negotiations with the Palestinians. Gibbs confirmed there were "areas
CNN Wire | March 23, 2010 | 10:36 pm EDT
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said Tuesday his government would take two years to implement plans to expand the East Jerusalem settlements in Ramat Shlomo, a plan that set off a diplomatic imbroglio with the United States when it was announced two weeks ago. "By the nature of the planning process, there won’t be any building in that Jewish neighborhood called Ramat Shlomo at least within the coming two years," Meridor told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. "So this is really not a problem now — at least two years, there’s not supposed to be any building according to the normal process of planning, that this plan needs to go through." The Israeli government announced during Vice President Joseph Biden’s visit to Jerusalem earlier in March that it would build 1,600 new apartments in largely Arab East Jerusalem. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton later called the timing of the announcement "insulting."
Meridor said he did not think the issue would affect US Israeli relations, nor the attitude of the Obama administration toward the status of Jerusalem. "They understand that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," Meridor said. "Nobody that I know of in America or, for that matter, in the Palestinian Authority, think that when there is an agreement of peace, and there are lines, the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, those who are in East Jerusalem or West Jerusalem, will not be part of Israel." But Daniel Levy, a senior fellow at the New America foundation, told Amanpour that the
Reuters Tue Mar 23, 2010 8:46am IST
Declaring "Jerusalem is not a settlement," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck a defiant note on Monday after new US criticism of Jewish home construction in disputed territory in and around the city. His speech in Washington to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, an influential pro-Israel lobby group, contrasted sharply with an address Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made at the same forum hours earlier. Clinton, who followed up her speech with low-profile talks with Netanyahu, said Israeli settlement policy in East Jerusalem and the West Bank endangered peace talks with the Palestinians, an argument the prime minister dismissed. "The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It’s our capital," Netanyahu said. Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which Israel captured along with the West Bank in a 1967 war, as the capital of a future state.
The United States and Israel have clashed since Netanyahu’s coalition government announced plans this month to build 1,600 homes for Jews near East Jerusalem. Netanyahu began a three-day visit to Washington on Monday, hoping to repair relations with President Barack Obama, whom he meets at the White House on Tuesday. Announcement of the housing project coincided with a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden — Netanyahu said he was blindsided by bureaucrats — and prompted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to delay the start of indirect, US-mediated peace talks. Pointing to what he has described as a national consensus in Israel over its claim to all of Jerusalem, Netanyahu told AIPAC that all Israeli governments had carried out construction in what he termed the city’s "Jewish neighborhoods" since 1967.
Reuters | Mon Mar 22, 2010 | 7:13pm IST
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday that Israel faces "difficult but necessary choices" on Mideast peace and pledged to push for biting sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. Clinton, speaking to the influential pro-Israel AIPAC lobby group after a turbulent stretch in US-Israel relations, said the Obama administration had a "rock solid" commitment to Israel’s peace and security. But she singled out Israel’s policy of expanding Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as an obstacle to progress which could imperil US efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. "New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need," Clinton said. "It exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit. And it undermines America’s unique ability to play a role — an essential role, I might add — in the peace process."
The issue of Jewish settlements has soured US ties with its closest Mideast ally as Israel approved new construction in East Jerusalem during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden, spurring Palestinians to say they would pull out of the indirect talks that Washington only just managed to launch. Clinton is due to meet visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on Monday and US Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell is in the region seeking to get the talks back on track. Netanyahu, who arrived in Washington earlier on Monday, has proposed a set of confidence-building measures following the settlement fracas, but said on Sunday Israel would not give up its right to build Jewish settlements around Jerusalem.
BBC News | 11:26 GMT | Sunday, 21 March 2010
The UN chief has said Israel’s blockade of Gaza is causing "unacceptable suffering," during a Middle East visit to reinvigorate the peace process. Ban Ki-moon told Gazans that "we stand with you" as he visited an area damaged by Israel’s offensive 14 months ago. His visit to the region comes amid tension over Israel’s plans to build more settlements in East Jerusalem. Rebuilding is difficult due to a lack of building materials during the three-year blockade. Israel imposed a tightened blockade after the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in June 2007.
Speaking in Gaza, Mr Ban said families were living under "unacceptable, unsustainable conditions". Mr Ban said it was "distressing" for him to see damage to housing remaining, with no reconstruction possible under the blockade. The blockade has prevented the UN from completing housing projects, but Mr Ban pledged to continue providing aid to Gazans. "My message to people of Gaza is this: the United Nations will stand with you through this ordeal," he said.
‘Path of non-violence’
Among a list of criticisms of the blockade by Israel and Egypt, Mr Ban said the blockade was counter-productive as it prevented legitimate commerce and encouraged smuggling and extremism. Mr Ban urged all Gazans to "choose the path of non-violence, Palestinian unity and international legitimacy". He also called for a prisoner exchange involving Palestinian prisoners and Israeli soldier Gilat Shilad
AP | msnbc.com | 8:39 pm ET| March 19, 2010
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has suggested that the United States and Israel have found a way around the worst disagreement the two allies have faced in years while international diplomats set goals for new US-backed peace talks aimed at establishing an independent Palestinian state. The so-called Quartet group of Mideast negotiators met in the Russian capital Friday to set the stage for peace talks in which the United States would be a go-between. Those indirect talks would be the first under the Democratic Obama administration and the hawkish Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At a news conference after the meeting, Clinton spoke approvingly of indications Netanyahu is ready to address US concerns about new Jewish housing that complicates peace efforts.
"What I heard from the prime minister in response to the requests we made was useful and productive," she said, "and we are continuing our discussions with him and his government." That was a far cry from Clinton’s earlier condemnation of the housing plan in east Jerusalem as an insult, delivered for maximum effect during a visit to Jerusalem by Vice President Joe Biden. Clinton had a curt conversation with Netanyahu a week ago in which she laid out US expectations from here, including a rollback to the housing plan, a gesture of good faith to the Palestinians and an express
09:19 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010
The Palestinian Authority has said indirect talks with Israel will be "very difficult" if more homes are built on occupied land as planned. Israel announced the plan for 1,600 more homes in occupied East Jerusalem shortly before a peace process visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said they had "demanded that the Americans help us revoke this order." The indirect talks were to be the first steps in resuming stalled peace talks. Mr Erakat, speaking to the BBC, emphasised that "it is very difficult for us to engage in any negotiations unless the order [to build the homes] is revoked".
President Mahmoud Abbas had notified the Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa and Mr Biden of his difficulties with the talks and settlements, Mr Erakat said. According to Mr Erakat: "He told Moussa, ‘I am waiting for [US Middle East envoy George] Mitchell to come back next week to give us the answer that the [settlements] decision has been cancelled’." Mr Biden has condemned the Israeli move as undermining trust. However, on Thursday he sought to stress US support for the Israeli nation, saying the US had "deep friendship and kinship with this magnificent country". He said the US had "no better friend than Israel". Israel and the Palestinians had earlier agreed to hold indirect "proximity talks" in a bid to restart the peace process, which has been stalled for 17 months.