US President Barack Obama wants to host a summit between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit here this spring, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Wednesday.
Ayalon said he was “certain” that efforts to arrange such a meeting were already under way.
Interviewed on Army Radio, Ayalon said that Obama plainly would not be visiting Israel unless it was already clear that the visit would mark some kind of substantive agreement. A three-way Obama-Netanyahu-Abbas meeting would presumably mark a resumption of peace negotiations.
Asked whether the president, in announcing the visit before the new Israeli government was in place, was trying to influence the composition of the next coalition, and whether the Americans would prefer to see someone other than Avigdor Liberman running the foreign ministry, Ayalon said he did not believe the US looked at Israeli politics in that way. Ayalon was ditched by Liberman from the Yisrael Beytenu party’s Knesset slate, is no longer an MK, and is set to testify against Liberman in the fraud and breach of trust case that forced Liberman’s resignation as foreign minister in December.
A day after Obama’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories was announced, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Abbas, said Wednesday that the PA welcomes the visit, which Abbas hopes will result in the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Earlier Wednesday, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro confirmed that Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts would be high on the agenda for the president’s trip, but that Obama “will not set forth any specific demands on his upcoming visit.”
The president and Netanyahu have “urgent” and “complex” issues to discuss, the ambassador told Army Radio, mentioning “our efforts to prevent Iran achieving a nuclear weapon,” to “prevent Syrian chemical weapons falling into dangerous hands” and to “bring Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table.” That’s why Obama would be coming so soon after the US and Israeli elections, he said. “It’s best to start as soon as possible.”
Breaking the news of Obama’s visit on Tuesday night, Israel’s Channel 10 said the president was pressing for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks “without preconditions.” That has been Netanyahu’s demand, while the Palestinians have demanded a West Bank settlement freeze.