US President Barack Obama is gearing up to take a more active role in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and will begin by pressuring the sides to accept US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework proposals, according to a report that cited administration officials on Wednesday.
In his scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in Washington, Obama will make an urgent appeal to the Israeli leader to accept Kerry’s generalized roadmap for final status negotiations, according to The New York Times.
The US president is expected to apply the same pressure to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when the two meet next month.
Obama, since his reelection, has ostensibly given Kerry the reins when it comes to the Middle East conflict, with the secretary making 11 trips to the region since helping to launch a new round of talks in July.
“Now is a very timely opportunity for [Obama] to get involved,” a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
With reports that the sides have reached an impasse over issues such as the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and maintaining an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, and with a 9-month deadline for talks looming in April, White House officials said now is the time for the president to get involved.
“The president wouldn’t want to run any risk that it was the lack of his involvement that would make the difference between success and failure,” said a senior official.
On Wednesday, Kerry said that the talks would extend past April, but officials said the goal is to have a framework in place by the end of that month.
Also on Wednesday, a report surfaced in the Palestinian media which described an explosive meeting between Abbas and Kerry in Paris last week, after which the Palestinian leader reportedly called the secretary’s proposals “insanity.”
According to Al Quds, Kerry offered for Abbas to form a Palestinian capital in Beit Hanina, not all of East Jerusalem, as the Palestinians have demanded. And he suggested that Israel keep 10 settlement blocs as part of any territorial exchange. The Jordan Valley would not be part of a future Palestinian state, Palestinian sources told the paper, nor would there be an international force stationed there. And Kerry reportedly demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.
There was no official confirmation of the report.