U.S. President Barack Obama plans to take a more active role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, quoting Obama administration officials.
U.S. President Barack Obama plans to become more involved in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks – Photo: AP
Obama will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday at the White House and will push him to agree to the framework deal currently being drafted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the report said. Obama will also likely meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later in March. U.S. officials told the newspaper that the goal is to reach a framework deal by the end of April.
“Now is a very timely opportunity for him to get involved,” a senior U.S. official said of Obama.
Once a framework deal is agreed upon, the peace negotiations could be extended, with the target being a final peace agreement by the end of 2014.
“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,” a senior U.S. official said.
Obama administration officials told The Times that the framework deal will cover all the major final-status issues. Both sides will be able to express reservations about the deal “as they don’t vitiate the framework,” an official said.
Kerry said on Wednesday of his ongoing efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, “I wouldn’t be pursuing it if I didn’t think it was worthwhile. I hope we are not wasting our time.”
“I hope very much that we are able to get both parties to do what is necessary to enter the most critical stage of this, which is the final phase, the final status negotiation … around a framework which is clear and defined,” Kerry said.
Palestinian Authority officials are angry about a proposal Kerry made to Abbas last week that the Beit Hanina neighborhood, rather than all of east Jerusalem, would become the capital of a Palestinian state.
Abbas confidants told the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds that Abbas was outraged by the American proposal, calling it “crazy.”
The report said Kerry’s framework proposal includes Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, the Israeli annexation of 10 settlement blocs with the Palestinians receiving uninhabited land in exchange, and exclusion of the Jordan Valley from a Palestinian state. According to the report, Abbas told Kerry that if the American proposal stays as it is, the Palestinians would withdraw from the peace negotiations.
Meanwhile, Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour warned on Wednesday that the application of Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem would represent a “blatant violation of the peace treaty” between the two countries.
“In the accord, Jordan was given custodianship of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, thus any attempt to challenge this position should be seen as a violation of the peace agreement,” Ensour said.
Ensour’s statement was prompted by a Knesset debate earlier this week on the issue of sovereignty on the Temple Mount.
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