After Iran deal, Obama and Kerry pivot to Middle East peace
December 7th, 2013
08:12 PM ET
8 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. 52pan

    How much is it going to cost for this try? How many of my tax dollars are going to be paid to some Palestinian "leader" to buy some supposed peace? A peace that will be broken right after the "leader" gets his hands on the money.

    December 8, 2013 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  2. Donna

    And now Israel will get to see the view from the underside of the Obama bus.... Is there ANY ally that Obama HASN'T screwed over?

    December 8, 2013 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
  3. patrick b rasmusson

    im a believer every human being on earth is capable of finding common denominator traits and capable of making amends and getting along from finding all these common bonds that are great as human beings are.

    December 8, 2013 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  4. David

    Whatever it is that these two fools are smoking, I would like some.

    December 8, 2013 03:04 am at 3:04 am |
  5. Jimmy

    Trust Israel to through a wrench into this too. AIPAC is mad at no attack on Syria. Israel-Saudi alliance is strong.

    December 8, 2013 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  6. James Friedman

    So a security plan is being drafted by the general who was in Afganistan. Now there's a model for success!!!!!

    December 8, 2013 03:15 am at 3:15 am |
  7. Dr, Jack

    Iran done??

    Iran has just announced the enhancement of their centrifuges activities!!

    With Kerry in charge, and Obama pulling the strings, the world is in GRAVE DANGER!!

    Chamberlain must laugh in his grave!!

    December 8, 2013 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  8. Commojoe53

    In other words, since we've so badly bungled yet another world event such as allowing Iran to continue seeking a nuclear bomb, let's see if we can stab Israel in the back and cause them to give up more of their country for a peace that will never happen. What idiots.

    December 8, 2013 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  9. Thomas Eisenhut

    Ya, Israel is going to trust these two clowns! Obama and Kerry. That's funny. Who right these articles?

    December 8, 2013 05:01 am at 5:01 am |
  10. Dave

    The old saying it takes two to tango, and that three is a crowd goes well with American government getting involved with everything and just creating a bigger mess all over the world. It seems that Washington DC, not the citizens of the USA, has this overpowering desire to take care of everyone in the world but those at home. The Liberals and Politically Correct have an agenda that goes something like, we get to mess all over you but don't tell us what to do. Well guess what, that is just not going to happen. IN this case, Americans to not belong messing with the Mid East. Let them do what they must do, let the winner take all as they have done for hundreds of years, what America does will have no affect but drain their already broken economy and as Washington DC takes from the people to give away to others, only lowers the standards of their own living and status in the world. Leadership in Washington has failed the American citizen for well over the last quarter century.

    December 8, 2013 05:03 am at 5:03 am |
  11. Anonymous

    It would be an amazing feat to have Palestinians in Gaza and the west bank agree with each other on an agreement with Israel.

    December 8, 2013 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  12. ALLuh

    muslims suck

    December 8, 2013 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  13. Ramon

    No way, Israel will never live in peace. They want to continue steal land and keep things as is. If peace prevail there, Isreal will become a failed state. They will kill each other.

    December 8, 2013 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  14. james

    President Obama understands the Muslim world and I think they will listen to him. He will bring peace to the middle east and help establish a Palestinian homeland. In the end Israel will realize that President Obama knows what he is doing. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and you do not win that for nothing.

    December 8, 2013 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  15. bob

    Iran done? Are you kidding? That's like going in for a job interview and then telling your friends you are retired with full pension.
    So now with a wave of their hands the two messiahs, Kerry and Obama will still the water and bring peace to an area that has been fighting for 2000 years?? Who is writing these articles?? The point lost on the 6 year old author here is that in the Middle East it is not a political war but rather a religious war. Only a patronizing and condescending liberal media and administration could believe via their collective metaphysical hubris that they can reunite the tribes of Abraham with long boring speeches. Oh well it makes a great photo op and headline, something Obama seems to count as significant.

    December 8, 2013 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  16. Letsgetreal

    These jokers were able to get a deal with Iran because they were willing to give away the store for nothing in return in order to take the news cycle off the Obamacare disaster. Let's not pretend that the Iran "agreement" is anything other than abject grovelling and it makes the world less safe. Obama was able to cut and run on our allies in the region without consulting them. He can't give away Isreali security directly, and they are not going to agree to unilateral disarmament just because of a few nice words on a teleprompter.

    December 8, 2013 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  17. truthstingz

    same regurgitated crapola we've been hearing since the 1940s... the arabs, who were gifted the majority of the middle east, have been nothing more than hypocritical and ungrateful. To the point that they rammed down the worlds throat this fallacy of a palestinian people and nation just to choke out the Jews – from lands across the middle east that they were kicked out of to the last little pieces of land they still have. Israel was promised a whole lot more but this was never delivered and conveniently is being ignored and rewritten. But, being the gracious nation it is (especially compared with any of the modern arabic/islamic nations), apart from all the negative and monumental adversity it faces, still tries to make peace and give pieces to these spoiled palestinians – the biggest welfare and charity organization ever created and coincidentally, mistreated by their own arab 'brothers'...

    December 8, 2013 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  18. omgamike

    I do not see any way to peace, not with the mindset of either party to this conflict. IMO, the administration is trying to blow smoke up our a**. Any settlement would involve Israel and Palestine jointly controlling Jerusalem, which Israel will never agree to. In addition, we always hear of the need for Israel to halt the construction of new settlements, especially those in contested lands. Once again, Israel will never agree. Maybe yes to future settlements, but never to turning over existing settlements, especially those in the West Bank. IMO, Israel's continued reliance on ancient history as the foundation for their assumed rights of ownership, are tenuous at best. But what do I know?

    December 8, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  19. Sean

    Great way to betray our stronges allies in the Middle East...

    1. Give the people that have sworn to wipe Israel off the face of the planet permission to enrich uranium for weapons

    2. Force our ally to make peace with the enemy

    Obama really is bent on destroying America, all it stands for, our economy, and our relationships with our allies.

    He's just doing it from the inside out.

    China is doing it economically.

    Iran thinks the US are a bunch of fools.

    Sadly, Iran is correct given that we voted Obama into office.

    December 8, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  20. jamie

    Another Obama foreign policy FAIL!

    December 8, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  21. giggy

    Kerry has been the most effective Secretary of state ever.

    December 8, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  22. liberal disease

    Iran is done? the agreement runs out in 6 months,and they let Iran up off the ground by lifting sections??
    these two stooges are an embarrassment
    ..

    December 8, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  23. flunar

    "...One aspect of that facilitation was an extensive security plan written by American military commanders for their Israeli counterparts...." IIt seems very strange that an American general would be designing a security plan for the Israeli military. I doubt that he knows their situation as well as they do. The only explanation I can think of is that the general's plan takes into account new factors in the equation such as equipment or troops that would be supplied by America.

    December 8, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  24. Gurgyl

    Just grab this Iran opportunity. Enough of Israel drama with GOP thugs that practically ruined this nation's image in outer world. Stabilize middle-east first. After Arafat, after Saddam, middle-east is destabilized with Iraq, Afghanistan wars, which drained USA national treasury. Yes, very educated writing, advising. But restrict all visas into this nation. Implement immigration laws till immigration reform takes place. Good lucks.

    December 8, 2013 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  25. Harleigh

    The United States should be next-it is about time that Obama do something good for his own country.

    December 8, 2013 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
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