After Iran deal, Obama and Kerry pivot to Middle East peace
December 7th, 2013
08:12 PM ET
10 months ago

After Iran deal, Obama and Kerry pivot to Middle East peace

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry made explicit the administration's renewed attempts to negotiate a peace deal between Israel and Palestine Saturday as the United States begins to assume a more muscular role in talks.

At the Brookings Institution's annual Saban Forum on Middle East issues and U.S.-Israeli relations, Obama and Kerry each spoke about a budding interim deal that would work towards a two-state solution.


"Peace is possible today," declared Kerry, who just returned this week from his eighth trip to the region. There, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who remain "as determined as ever" to negotiate a peace deal, he said.

We are "closer than ever" to realizing a two-state solution, he added.

"I think it's possible in the next several months to arrive at a framework that does not address every single detail, but gets us to a point where everybody recognizes better to move forward than move backwards," Obama told Haim Saban, an Israeli-American media mogul who hosted the president for a public Q&A.

"I think that we're now at a place where we can achieve a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians are living side-by-side in peace and security, but it's going to require some very tough decisions," he continued.

Some very tough decisions that make up the bulk of negotiations from here on. As Kerry pointed out, the basic outline of a deal has been clear all along: It must deal with borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, mutual recognition and end of claims.

But reaching a consensus on those issues will take a lot of work, and Obama reminded his audience that there is only so much the U.S. can do.

"The only way this is going to be resolved is if the people of Israel and the Palestinian people make a determination that their futures and the futures of their children and grandchildren will be better off with peace than with conflict," he said. "The U.S. can be an effective facilitator of that negotiation and dialogue. We can help to bridge differences and bridge gaps. But both sides have to want to get there."

One aspect of that facilitation was an extensive security plan written by American military commanders for their Israeli counterparts. Headed by retired four-star Gen. John Allen, whose last assignment was as top brass in Afghanistan, the in-depth analysis reports on how Israel can maintain its security in a two-state solution - a concern that has impeded negotiations in the past.

On the Palestinian side, both Obama and Kerry made assurances not only that their most basic demands would be met, but also that a new Palestine could emerge, one that was a true partner to Israel.

"Israel and Jordan must know that they will have a reliable and responsible neighbor, not a failed state between them," said Kerry.

Obama went into further detail, discussing an interim deal that would initially only include the West Bank, not Gaza. Once Gazans saw the success, he argued, they would push for their own peace.

"If there is a model where young Palestinians in Gaza are looking and seeing that in the West Bank, Palestinians are able to live in dignity, with self-determination, and suddenly their economy is booming and trade is taking place... that’s something that the young people of Gaza are going to want," he said.

For all the talk of meeting Israel and Palestine's needs, though, Obama and Kerry seemed clear-eyed about the challenges ahead, including a transition period where Israel might have to yield some of its security demands and Palestine might be required to show restraint and patience.

But four months into a nine-month deadline set by Kerry, Israelis and Palestinians have little tangible progress. At least now, they also have what looks like increased attention from Washington.

–CNN's Elise Labott and Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.


Filed under: John Kerry • Middle East • President Obama
soundoff (156 Responses)
  1. are122

    All this and they can't get one hostage out of Iran???

    December 7, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  2. festavarian

    Case closed. Now we just sit back and wait for the bomb to explode. Nice work- NOT!

    December 7, 2013 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  3. DorkInChief

    Let's see... Israel can expand it's borders and... that's it! Done deal! Thanks Obama !!!!!!

    December 7, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  4. seafoodwatch

    How much money did Obama give everybody?

    December 7, 2013 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  5. ukpong edem

    I prefer peace existen b/w d 2 countries 4 economic growth

    December 7, 2013 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  6. AL999

    It's about time... and yet we're not there yet. As Thomas Edison once said, "Visualization without execution is just hallucination." Truely hope this peace brings about the security and recognition Israel needs and the dignity and self-determination the Palestinians deserve. However, the devil is in the details. Mazel Tov and good luck.

    December 7, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  7. nothappening

    Sorry – the crap deal Obama negotiated with Iran (allowing them to get closer to nuclear weapons) is not going to translate into a crap deal for the Israelis. The Jordan River is the border – and that is that. Israeli's are not about to negotiate a deal with the Palestinians with a US president who just sold them under the bus with Iran.

    This "president" is a joke.

    December 7, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  8. davecu

    Deals like this must be based on mutual trust.
    OOPS!
    EPIC FAIL!

    December 7, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  9. nothappening

    I doubt Israel, who has only three years to wait until this US president is gone, is going to risk its security in the long term with a deal that allows the Palestinians to easily threaten their borders.

    December 7, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  10. concernedGrndma

    I simply do not feel confident in where this deal is going.

    December 7, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  11. DTurner

    Dumb and Dumber trying to tell Israel what to do. Now that Heinz-Kerry has given the Iranians everyting they wanted-including time to assemble a nuclear weapon and most likely use it- D and D are celebrating. The "deal" is so bad the Saudis and Israel have become partners since the US sold out both of them. I can only hope the rest of the world understands we have only temporary "leadership from behind" in the WH and in 2016 maybe-maybe-we can recover from this farce.

    December 7, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  12. Edston

    LOL – You're kidding, right?

    December 7, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  13. VJ

    Democrats biggest foreign policy success.. Kudos to Obama, Kerry and Hillary Clinton... Now, Republicans won't say that they are number one in national security. Without loss of blood, lives, soldiers and people, PTSD (after come back) Obama administration did it again... Once again Kudos to the Obama's team....

    December 7, 2013 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  14. bam

    Cutting off "AID" to all countries including Israel, DONE?
    enough with giving countries $$$ to buy from the War Machine.
    FIX OUR INFRASTRUCTURE....

    December 7, 2013 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  15. Jonathon Powelly

    Typical diplomatic speak for we're treading water and praying for a miracle.

    December 7, 2013 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  16. Tampa Tim

    The word is that the sneaky weasel Eric Cantor, is trying to derail the deal with the 6 nations and Iran. It appears that the right wing war machine is not happy unless they can destroy peace efforts. What a sorry heap of crap the GOP is.

    December 7, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  17. Ehh?Whater!

    Well, glad to know that Iran is "DONE!"... Who's next! time to liberate! Lol. Come on, people!

    December 7, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  18. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    I suppose it's killing the Republicans that Mr. Obama is a very successful president even though they have tried to destroy him at every turn.

    December 7, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  19. JokonAbubakar

    C-In-C and team Kerry Bravo Zulu....Iran checked. ...next Middle talks; way to go. Thanks for making the world a peaceful place. Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

    December 7, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  20. The other guy

    blah blah blah Obama is great!

    December 7, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  21. sbg

    "For all the talk of meeting Israel and Palestine's needs, though, Obama and Kerry seemed clear-eyed about the challenges ahead, including a transition period where Israel might have to yield some of its security demands and Palestine might be required to show restraint and patience."

    Translation: Israel must give up even more land for a "peace" that will never come. The Arabs will be asked to please tone down the number of school kids they blow up on buses and the elderly in pizza parlors.

    December 7, 2013 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  22. Anonobus

    I have a question. 9-11 saw 3,000 Americans killed in a day and changed the lives of everyone in the world forever..
    In 1994 8,000 people in Rwanda were killed a day for a sustained 100 days for a total of 800,000 human lives in this "international community". What changed?
    "Terror" was a killing field ignored. They were people. Real people.
    I'm in Canada, and I cannot travel normally after 9-11. My Senator was the General in charge of Rwanda.

    December 7, 2013 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  23. Lee S

    Who are these idiots fooling? O yea, half of America.

    December 7, 2013 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  24. Crampon

    "Iran done" lol

    December 7, 2013 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  25. moas786

    world need more peace makers and not war mongers...

    December 7, 2013 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
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