Report: Obama mulls new Mideast peace plan
State Department official. says U.S. is interested in aiding parties, not forcing an agreement.
U.S. President Barack Obama is weighing the possibility of submitting a new American Middle East peace plan by this fall, senior Washington officials told the Washington Post on Wednesday.
Speaking to columnist David Ignatius, two top administration officials claimed Obama was "seriously considering" proposing an American peace plan to resolve the Palestinian conflict.
"Everyone knows the basic outlines of a peace deal," one official told the Washington Post columnist, referring to the agreement that was nearly reached at Camp David in 2000.
The official added that if such a plan would be launched would rely on past progress on issues such as borders, Palestinian "right of return" and Jerusalem, with one of the officials claiming that "90 percent of the map would look the same" as in former negotiations.
Ignatius also wrote in his Washington Post column that the planned peace plan would be linked with the issue of confronting Iran, with one U.S. official saying that Mideast peace talks could sway the debate from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"We want to get the debate away from settlements and East Jerusalem and take it to a 30,000-feet level that can involve Jordan, Syria and other countries in the region," the official told Ignatius.
"Incrementalism hasn't worked," the second official added, saying that the United States would not allow the Palestinian problem to linger, something which could provide Iran and other extremists further fuel.
"As a global power with global responsibilities, we have to do something," one of the officials said, adding that the plan would "take on the absolute requirements of Israeli security and the requirements of Palestinian sovereignty in a way that makes sense."
State Department Spokesman Philip J. Crowley, referring to Wednesday's Washington Post report, said that "as we've said many times, we're prepared to play an active role once the parties get into negotiations. But you know, beyond that, I've got no particular comment."
Crowley, did, however, indicate that the U.S. administration was in no way interested in forcing an agreement on Israel and the Palestinians, saying he would steer you away from the idea that we are -- you know, we're going to try to at this point impose a particular view on the parties."
"We ultimately believe, again, in negotiations where they will address the core issues. We can help them, as we have done many times in past negotiations, where we can offer ideas on how to bridge differences. We're prepared to do that," Crowley said, adding: "But, you know, our focus right now is getting them into the proximity talks, into negotiations, and then we'll see what happens after that."
The State Department spokesman added that the U.S. was "still looking for the parties, you know, to indicate that they're prepared to take the steps that we've outlined for both of them that can create the right atmosphere for proximity talks to get under way."
On Tuesday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the United States has reached a dead end in its attempts to revive Middle East peace talks.
Erekat,said the Palestinians wanted U.S. guarantees that Israel would not issue more tenders to build on land where the Palestinians aim to establish a state, including East Jerusalem.
Israel must also cancel plans announced last month for more building in parts of Jerusalem it captured, along with the West Bank in a 1967 war, Erekat added.
"This is what we expect," Erekat told Voice of Palestine radio.
"But it appears that all the consultations that have happened with the Israeli government and the American administration and other states have reached a dead end with Israeli positions insisting on a continuation of settlement."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had met U.S. Consul General Daniel Rubinstein on Monday, Erekat added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington last month, has yet to respond formally to a U.S. demand for confidence-building steps to try to persuade Palestinians to return to peace talks.