Obama Aims to Push Peace Through Settlement Freeze, Normalization

The United States is interested in promoting the peace process through a series of confidence-building gestures between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states, a senior American official who declined to be named told Haaretz.

The official said the plan would involve a freeze on construction in settlements in exchange for normalization steps from the Arab states.

According to the official, the "gestures plan" is meant to reopen the political process in the Middle East, while encapsulating parts that had already been brought up in talks between Israeli and American officials. It is likely to be at the heart of an upcoming meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said he hoped "over the next several months, that you start seeing gestures of good faith on all sides. I don't want to get into the details of what those gestures might be, but I think that the parties in the region probably have a pretty good recognition of what intermediate steps could be taken as confidence-building measures. And we will be doing everything we can to encourage those confidence-building measures to take place. At some point, steps have to be taken so that people can see progress on the ground. And that will be something that we will expect to take place in the coming months and we will help hopefully to drive a process where each side is willing to build confidence."

King Abdullah stressed his support for the two-state solution.

"We're looking now at he positives and not the negatives, and seeing how we can sequence events over the next couple of months that allows Israelis and Palestinians and Israelis and Arabs to sit around the table and move this process forward," he said.

The so-called "gesture plan" is set to include an Israeli freeze on construction in settlements throughout the West Bank. In exchange, the U.S. will request the Palestinian Authority and moderate Arab states make normalization steps towards Israel, including public meetings with senior Israeli officials, issuing positive statements on the peace process, and even re-establishing diplomatic relations that have been discontinued, as with Qatar, Oman or Morocco.