WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Eighty-seven U.S. senators signed a letter urging President Obama to keep the Israelis and Palestinians at the negotiating table.
The letter, initiated by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), thanks Obama for restarting direct peace talks and notes the threat to their success from what it calls "enemies of peace" -- Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.
Under relentless pressure by the Obama administration, Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed, last November, to a one-sided one-time10-month Jewish construction freeze on the six percent of the West Bank where Jews live.
Since the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, Israel hasn't built a single new settlement and has only built within the settlement borders as of 1993.
If you want to understand the maddeningly complex debate over Israel's West Bank settlements and U.S. policy, check out these two op-eds that articulately outline two opposing positions.
In today's Washington Post, columnist Richard Cohen took the Obama administration to task for what he says is its counterproductive focus on stopping settlement construction as a necessary precursor of a viable peace process.
Cohen accurately laid out the emotional punch the issue carries for both sides:
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- When the fat lady sings on Sept. 26, it may only be an intermission.
That’s the word from an array of Mideast experts across the political spectrum. They are predicting that the seeming intractability between Israel and the Palestinians over whether Israel extends a settlement moratorium beyond its end date will not scuttle the peace talks.
Instead, the observers say, the sides are likely employing the brinksmanship that has come to characterize Middle East peacemaking.
It’s not that unusual for a planned interview to fall through at the last minute.
The three things different about the one that got away from me this week, though, was that it was with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, I didn’t initiate it, and the contact came from a Jewish organization.
The idea was for Abbas, who was coming to New York this week for the UN General Assembly, to improve his image in the American Jewish community, according to Zvika Krieger, senior vice president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Mideast Peace, in Washington.
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a top aide suggested that a compromise with the Palestinians on a settlement freeze is not in the offing.
Netanyahu, along with top adviser Ron Dermer and Israel's U.S. ambassador, Michael Oren, spoke Monday afternoon on a conference call with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
JTA reviewed the call with a number of participants.
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- The administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush offered to absorb 100,000 Palestinian refugees if Israel and the Palestinians reached a peace deal, Ehud Olmert said.
The former Israeli prime minister, speaking to the Geneva Initiative conference in Tel Aviv Sunday night, said that Israel had agreed to absorb a symbolic amount of Palestinian refugees, a number he said to be fewer than 20,000.
In the minefields of Middle East peace diplomacy, what you see is often not what you get. Over the years both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have become adept at maneuvers that conceal their real goals. The fact is that distinguishing reality from diplomatic and political posturing is difficult in the best of times.
Real test, analysts say, will come at UN General Assembly session opening.
There were rays of optimism following Israeli-Palestinian peace talks Tuesday in Egypt, but the real test may come here next week when world leaders gather for the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- President Obama told American rabbis that securing Israel was critical to the peace process.
The president, in a 35-minute Rosh Hashanah call Tuesday with 600 rabbis of all denominations, said his administration's efforts to reassure the Israeli government of U.S. backing for its security helped bring about the renewed peace process.
The Obama administration in the past year has enhanced intelligence sharing and missile defense cooperation with Israel, and has taken the lead in isolating Iran until it makes transparent its nuclear program.