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.
BBC News | 8 October 2010 | 21:39 GMT
Arab League foreign ministers have given the US one month to rescue deadlocked Middle East peace talks. At a meeting in Libya, they endorsed a decision by the Palestinian negotiators to stay away unless Israel restored a partial settlement construction freeze. But the ministers said the US had to be given more time to break the impasse.
The direct negotiations, the first in almost two years, resumed in September but later stalled when Israel refused to extend the freeze in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attended the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in the Libyan city of Sirte.
Afterwards Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, who chaired the meeting, told reporters: "The committee endorses the decision of President Abbas to stop the talks." "It urges the American side to pursue its efforts to prepare adequate grounds and circumstances to resume the peace process and put this peace process back on the right track, including stopping settlements," he added.
The Arab League ministers are now due to meet again in a month’s time to review the situation. The US state department later said: "We appreciate the Arab League’s statement of support for our efforts to create conditions that will allow direct talks to move forward."
Article first published as West Asia Peace Talks are a Game for Netanyahu on Blogcritics.
The much-hyped Middle East peace talks have faced a dead end with all parties standing rigid at their positions without making any move. As the self-imposed partial freeze of settlement building has expired on September 26, the settlement building resumed despite warnings and requests from the US establishment.
Although the peace talks were supposed to be held without preconditions, the president of the Palestinian Authority Mr. Abbas has declared before the talks that Israel must freeze its settlement building for the peace process to be continued. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told before leaving for talks, to the supporters of his Likud party that they had nothing to worry. “You don’t need to worry. Nobody needs to teach me what it is to love Eretz Yisrael,” referring to the idea of an Israel stretching from Mediterranean sea to the Jordan river including the whole of the West Bank. (‘Frontline’ fortnightly’s print edition – October 8, 2010)
Netanyahu’s love for Eretz Yisrael implies his unwillingness to the existence of Palestinians’ West Bank. If it is so, why should he dance to the tune of Mr. Obama? It is not clear whether Obama is in the pocket of Netanyahu or Netanyahu is in the pocket of Obama. However, the doubt appears to be cleared with a leaked video of Mr. Netanyahu.
A video was published on Youtube that shot Benjamin talking to a family, supposedly a victim of terrorist attack, in a West Bank settlement of Ofra. He asked to stop shooting preparing himself to tell something that cannot be
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 | 30 August 2010 | 06:59 GMT
A senior rabbi from a party within Israel’s coalition government has called for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to "vanish from our world". Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of Shas, spoke out as Middle East talks are poised to begin in Washington. The United States condemned the remarks as "deeply offensive". Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from the comments with a statement saying that his government wanted peace with the Palestinians. The attack on Mr Abbas, delivered in the rabbi’s weekly sermon, also prompted chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat to condemn the remarks as "an incitement to genocide". Mr Erakat urged the Israeli government "to do more about peace and stop spreading hatred", the AFP news agency reported.
‘Regret and condemn’
Rabbi Yosef expressed the wish that "all the nasty people who hate Israel, like Abu Mazen (Abbas), vanish from our world". He went on to say: "May God strike them down with the plague along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel." The remarks come as Mr Netanyahu is due in Washington this week for direct peace talks with Mr Abbas. US President Barack Obama hopes to bring the leaders together on Thursday for the first face-to-face discussions since December 2008, when the Palestinians broke off negotiations over Israel’s offensive against the Gaza Strip. The US response to Rabbi Yosef, a founder of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, was swift. In a statement, US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said: "We regret and condemn the inflammatory statements by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace."
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 | Tuesday, 9 March 2010 | 04:29 GMT
US Vice-President Joe Biden has arrived in Israel to promote a new round of Middle East peace talks more than a year after they stalled. Mr Biden will meet both Palestinian and Israeli leaders during the highest-level visit to the region yet by an Obama administration official. Iran’s nuclear programme is expected to be at the top of Israel’s agenda. Hours before Mr Biden landed, Israel enraged Palestinians by approving 112 new homes in the occupied West Bank. Mr Biden will try to reassure Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that plans for tougher sanctions against Iran are serious, says the BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen. The US does not want Israel to take military action against Iran, which is much talked about here, our correspondent reports from Jerusalem.
Mr Biden is due to hold talks with Mr Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and opposition leader Tzipi Livni later on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he will meet Palestinian leaders in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to meet Mr Netanyahu because of Israel’s refusal to put a complete stop to building Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. But after US pressure, President Abbas agreed on Monday to four months of indirect, so-called "proximity talks". The discussions would mark the first time the Palestinians and Israelis have come together in any form for more than a year. Mr Netanyahu said on Monday: "Our security is to prevent… missiles, rockets, terror and these are things that I intend to insist upon in order to get an arrangement that will last generations, this is achievable."
Reuters | Thu Feb 25, 2010 | 7:00 am IST
The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan will meet in New Delhi on Thursday to resume official contacts which India broke off after militants attacked the Indian city of Mumbai in late 2008. No breakthroughs are expected, but the meeting may help repair frayed ties. Here are some of the main problems between the rival neighbours, who have fought three wars since independence from British rule in 1947.
SECURITY: For India, security is the top issue. It has refused to resume a series of talks on problems, known as the composite dialogue, until Pakistan takes more action against Pakistan-based militant groups. In particular, India wants Pakistan to show it is serious in reining in the militants behind the Mumbai attacks, in which 166 people were killed. Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said on Monday that Indian concerns about militants in Pakistan would form the main focus of the talks. India suspects Pakistani security agents support some anti-India groups. Pakistan denies that and says the peace process should not be held hostage to “non-state actors”. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said this month talks would not make required progress if India insisted on focusing on security. Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2010/01/25 | 09:54:25 GMT
NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan has said increased troop levels could bring a negotiated peace with the Taliban. US Gen Stanley McChrystal told the UK’s Financial Times newspaper that there had been “enough fighting”. He said a political solution in all conflicts was “inevitable”. His remarks came as the top UN envoy in Kabul said it was time to talk to the militants. Afghan and Pakistani leaders are in Turkey to discuss tackling the Taliban-led insurgency in their countries. This is the fourth such meeting initiated by Turkey, which has offered to broker talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Both Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, will attend an international conference on Afghanistan in London on Thursday.
‘Focus on the future’
“I’d like everybody to walk out of London with a renewed commitment, and that commitment is to the right outcome for the Afghan people,” Gen McChrystal told the Financial Times. He said the arrival of the extra 30,000 US troops pledged by President Obama and the additional 7,000 troops promised by other NATO countries should deliver “very demonstrably positive” progress in 2010. But he warned that the level of Taliban violence could increase sharply this year. The Taliban wanted to create the perception that Afghanistan was on fire, and that President Karzai and his Western allies could not cope, Gen McChrystal said. However, if the new US-led strategy was successful, the militants “could look desperate” in a year’s time, he said. “I think they will look like an entity that will be struggling for its own legitimacy… I think they will be on the defensive militarily, not wiped out.” Continue reading
Reuters | Thu Dec 10, 2009 | 3:25pm IST
The U.S. envoy for North Korea said on Thursday he had candid talks with officials in Pyongyang and there was a “common understanding” to resume stalled international nuclear discussions. Stephen Bosworth was speaking to reporters on his return from a three-day visit to the North Korean capital.