After Iran deal, Obama and Kerry pivot to Middle East peace
December 7th, 2013
08:12 PM ET
1 year 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. YeahRight

    We basically gave Iran everything they wanted. We kicked the can down the road 6 months while at the same time authorizing them to pursue nuclear weapons in the meantime.

    December 8, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  2. yolanda

    Iran "done"? Yup, Iran is "done", and unfortunately so is the USA. This is all too much like "Mission Accomplished". Our arrogance knows no bounds.

    December 8, 2013 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  3. Frank

    nice "headline" libtard boy ...so where did you get the idea to CREATE the LIE that "Iran is done" you know people will die because you chose top tell that one line LIE ...Obama himself (Living God King to all mankind father of communist love and charity as YOU call him when you bow to pray at his picture every morning ) said yesterday that odds are only 50/50 of ANY deal with Iran working but you chose to set out on a campaign of lies-

    December 8, 2013 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    Better men than either of them, have tried and failed. They will fail, as well.

    December 8, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  5. shehar39

    Iran done? lol... turning to ME? these guys are jokes

    December 8, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  6. Ernie Boomer

    Iran done? what a joke

    December 8, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  7. DJones

    Obama isn't the right man to have anywhere near a deal in the making for Israel. He has made known his Islamic prejudice against Israel from the beginning and Israelis do not trust him and for GOOD reasons. Obama tried to hurt Israel in his first term and then he realized that he would never get re-elected if he continued on that course, so he put off that agenda until his second term. Obama would loving nothing more than to throw Israel under the bus.

    December 8, 2013 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  8. Dwayne

    "Business is booming and trade is taking place" is code for "Thousands of Americans losing jobs as companies move to Palestine" as America signs landmark trade agreement. Then, after a couple of years of struggling, politicians can begin calling those same displaced American workers "deadbeats and takers, not makers'.

    December 8, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  9. Jessica McGwin

    Palestinians have been know to be warm weather friends. I do not see the Israel leadership taking to heart anything this Administration has to say. I would say to my all weather friend in Israel to walk with caution. As I my self do not trust the word of my leaders. Be open to peace. Know that your military leaders are in many way light years ahead of the United States. Fallow you gut. What works for the United States defense and security many not be what works for Israel.

    December 8, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  10. TSB8C

    "Iran done" – what's with that headline? Still enriching, still producing, haven't removed anything they did over the past 5+ years, that's done?

    December 8, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  11. James

    Bibi and Peace? You're set for dissapointment.

    December 8, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  12. Javanne

    "Israel and Jordan must know that they will have a reliable and responsible neighbor, not a failed state between them", So say's Kerry. That can only happen if Israel or Jordan are running things there. The Palestinians will never accept anything less than the total destruction of Israel – they have proven that for decades, right up to this day – and any 'peace' deal will only last until they think they can achieve that goal. Their own state would greatly boost them towards that goal, assuming Israel would allow it to happen like ther West is allowing Iran to get the bomb..

    December 8, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  13. don in albuquerque

    Time has come to tell Israel to get with the program or risk losing every penny of foreign aide.

    December 8, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  14. Dean

    "Iran done'. That's funny. This administration is so incredibly naive.

    December 8, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  15. jayb18

    America's Idiot abroad.

    December 8, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  16. dickburgundy

    "Israel might have to yield some of its security demands and Palestine might be required to show restraint and patience." So it seems that in return for Israel letting it's guard down a little, the Palestinians will agree to "be patient and restrain" their suicide bombers and rocket attacks? That sounds like a great plan.

    December 8, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  17. Scott

    Iran deal done??? What doest that mean exactly? That Iran has claimed the right to enrich and will now continue to proceed to build a nuclear bomb? Who are these incompetents?????

    December 8, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  18. MickeyOregon

    NOW? Over this, he get involved? He has been very open about being anti-Israe and anti-Jew. The Iran eff-up of his stresses his fondness for terrorists (Syria, Egypt, Russia, China all come to mind)

    December 8, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  19. king

    i think Kerry is one the best secretary of states ever, he has this uncanny ability to make things happen directly and indirectly, i think Obama has made a wise choice to pick him for the this seat after the good job Clinton did. i will trust him to make things happen on this one.

    December 8, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  20. nuclear mike

    The IRAN DEAL is not over...

    December 8, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  21. bugmetoo

    Done? Obama leaves everything unfinished.

    December 8, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  22. Terry

    What about an "extensive security plan" for Palestine to prevent Israeli encroachment, incursions, and meddling?!?!?!? Any solution must include seizure and destruction of Israel's illegal nukes by the U.S. and Europe and nothing will change. Also, Palestine must have it's own army with air force and naval components like any other real country or state or-again-Israel and the U.S. will be shown to be the total hypocrites they have always been historically. period.

    December 8, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  23. jim

    less then 50/50 chance, and that's done? well by his standards I guess, If its worth doing its worth doing half ass

    December 8, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  24. DWEBSTER

    Iran is not "done". The agreement reached with them is supposed to be just phase one of a larger agreement yet to be reached. Phase one is to only last 6 months and, if a larger agreement is not reached, sanctions are supposed to be ratcheted up again. I doubt a larger agreement will be reached in that time frame and it will be very telling if Obama does not move to reimpose the sanctions that have been eased under the temporary phase one agreement. It would not surprise me to see the phase 2 negotiations drawn out until Obama leaves office. In essence, Obama has moved to a containment strategy but is unwilling to make that announcement because it goes against everything he has said up to this point in time. But that is nothing new, Mr. Obama has a very poor track record when it comes to having his actions meet his words.

    December 8, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  25. Peppy

    Dumb and Dumber anyone ????

    December 8, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
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