After Iran deal, Obama and Kerry pivot to Middle East peace
December 7th, 2013
08:12 PM ET
11 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. Cary Grant

    Apparently the criteria for success for this great administration is that an agreement was signed. Not that it is effective, realistic or workable or whether it will achieve ANYTHING. Yeah, great job! And the best part? The obama sycophants will just lap it up.

    December 7, 2013 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  2. Voiceinthewind

    This is the reason the illegal occupiers don't want peace, now their treatment of the Palestine people is in focus again and the illegal occupiers don't like this because they are being exposed for their illegal actions. They like to create distractions thinking the rest of the world will no notice all their crimes against the Palestinians. Problem is the world is wise to them and is slowly boycotting them because of the terrorism they are practicing. It is time for the world to act against the illegal occupiers and punish those responsible for the actions of the Evil Empire.

    December 7, 2013 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  3. montyross

    How nice! Two men with a Messiah complex.

    December 7, 2013 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  4. The other guy

    Iran has not stopped enriching uranium.
    Hama's leadership is ranting about a 3rd intifada. Listen to what the enemy says instead of telling us what you think we want to hear.

    December 7, 2013 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  5. Willy100

    That's WONDERFUL that the deal with IRAN is Done ! ! I did not think that this was possible – – Get out more Nobel Prizes ! !

    December 7, 2013 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  6. Kat

    "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.
    Zionazis have determined to colonize Palestine. They believe it is a grave sin against Yehwah to give up "the promised land" to the gentiles

    December 7, 2013 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  7. BLE7481

    Sorry, I'm having trouble following this story – my attention is distracted by having to deal with my cancelled insurance, costlier and less desirable replacement policies, and the attendant paperwork nightmares.

    If they do as well with Middle East as they did with Iran and my health insurance, they'll have Israel paying to arm the Palestinians with a nuclear weapon constructed in Iran.

    December 7, 2013 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  8. rick

    Wow not only delusional, but highly censored, and a reflection of the US's insecurity on the matter in reality.

    December 7, 2013 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  9. BLE7481

    "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."

    I had an assurance from Obama recently: "If you like your insurance you can keep it – period." My cancellation notice proved that assurance to be a colossal lie. A little head's-up to the Middle East: You can't trust these people.

    December 7, 2013 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  10. xyz

    privatization wrecks the commons. i bet there is going to be a huge backlash against the privatize everything people.

    December 7, 2013 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  11. G. T. Simpson

    Guess it isn't bad enough Kerry screwed up badly in Iran – now he want to do even more damage is other Mideast countries – Kerry, Obama and Susan Rice – the new "Three Stooges."

    December 7, 2013 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  12. abey kweku

    history in the making. is it obama's legacy?

    December 7, 2013 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  13. deltaecho

    Iran isn't "done."

    December 7, 2013 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  14. DrMantis

    No other country in the world takes these two pathetic clowns seriously...

    December 7, 2013 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  15. H

    Right, "Peace in our time", with a tip of the hat to Neil Chamberlain.

    December 7, 2013 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  16. xyz

    our laws are written by lobbyists...its a problem.

    December 7, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  17. John_33

    The Iran deal is NOT done. This is absurd. Military action has not even been taken off the table and President Obama wishes to tackle 'peace' with Israel and the Palestinians? Nothing good will come from this.

    December 8, 2013 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  18. Peter Guild

    Can you believe how gullible Barack Obama and John Kerry are? They think Iranians were telling them the truth. Since when have Iranian told the truth? Remember the U.S. Hostages taken by the Iranians on November 4, 1989, and held for 444 days. Peter Guild, Quincy, MA.

    December 8, 2013 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  19. Brian Smith

    Like Iran, can they negotiate a sustained peace plan between Israel and Palestine that is finalized and stable within 6 months? And can Israel's nuclear weapons be destroyed within 6 months too? Better make it 2 months – because Syria has no trouble, they should be able to manage under a compressed timetable too.

    December 8, 2013 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  20. dajowi

    Obama and Kerry – from one mission impossible to another. These guys are legends in their own minds.

    December 8, 2013 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  21. sonic10158

    Good luck. I may not be a fan of President Obama's policies, but I don't want peace talks to fail no matter who the president is.

    December 8, 2013 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  22. dave

    israel...do not give up an inch of land nor be fooled by those two idiots..bama and kerry

    December 8, 2013 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  23. Wade

    After Obama and Kerry surrender to Iran and give them the NUKES they go out to destroy Israel who Obama hates more than he hates America. Got it!

    December 8, 2013 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  24. Anonymous

    Obama and Kerry have no intention of peace for Israel. They support the Muslim Brotherhood. Obama's so called deal will be completely unreasonable, and unreachable.

    December 8, 2013 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  25. TheMing

    Iran is sort out, is it? Congratulations of solving that problem so well, Kerry and Obama. They're so clever!

    December 8, 2013 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
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