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. Evergreen

    Peace in the Middle East, restraining Irans nuclear weapons ambitions, affordable healthcare for all Americans...President Obama is not afraid to tackle the big problems.

    December 8, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. bcrunner

    I wish you luck Mr. President and Secretary Kerry!! Every time we've come close to a deal in the past it has been scuttled... I will pray for your success for the benefit of everyone in the middle East... No more wars...

    December 8, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  3. Thomas

    Doing nothing is Doing nothing .

    Vote to stop doing nothing 2014 .

    December 8, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  4. Jeannie Ramberg

    Israel will never stop pushing and expanding. The settlements will continue. How can any progress ever be achieved when Israels goal is to expand its land ownership?

    December 8, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  5. CaesarXIII

    Middle East Peace. That's a funny tag line. Only been hearing that one the last 40 years. Let me know when the Muslims give big hugs and Eskimo kisses with the Israelis. I'm sure Obama and Kerry can tackle thousands of years of hatred. He's already done such a great job of smoothing over race relations here at home.

    December 8, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  6. Gurgyl

    I told you this President has guts. GOP thugs want bloodshed out of WARS. Keep Israel out of sight, they are the drama guys bed with GOP thugs for centuries at the cost of looting USA treasury. Grab Iran deal.

    December 8, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  7. Reallity

    These two fools live in fantasy land. Do they really think they can make that place peaceful. Oh and Iran, its only a mater of time before the Iranian fanatics have a nuclear weapon. Under Obama they have increased uranium enrichment, oh I forgot that was Bush's fault like everything else. I am not a big Bush fan but come on Obama take some credit for your mistakes and stop pointing fingers. The day is close when Iran will have a nuclear weapons and nothing will stop it.

    December 8, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  8. Fred

    "Peace is possible today," declared Kerry

    Kerry is a modern day Neville Chamberlain.

    ~ M

    December 8, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  9. John

    Lets see. If Israel defense itself against Iran but taking out strategic military targets, all the cry babies of the world will say Israel is bullying the poor and weak Iran. If Iran attacks Israel the cry babies of the world will say Israel deserved it. Seems legit. Green flag barry, insert your politics of slick tongue talking and swagger into a potential war. I'm sure this "drama" will look great on your facebook page and twitter account. Something to talk about after talking about Kim Kardashian gets old.

    December 8, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  10. conoclast

    '...gets us to a point where everybody recognizes better to move forward than move backwards," Moving forward in life seems to be the agreed-upon scenario for the whole civilized world; the exceptions of course being the "christians" and the gun-ghouls on the radical right, who have made it increasingly obvious that they:

    a) don't like their fellow Americans and
    b) aren't all that sold on self-government to begin with

    December 8, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  11. My name is D

    To Evergreen,
    Agreed, yet to all these gop tea party republican nuts Obama is some anti freedom democracy killing socialist who wants the United States to fail...

    December 8, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  12. Scott

    Peace in the Middle East, restraining Irans nuclear weapons ambitions, affordable healthcare for all Americans...President Obama is not afraid to tackle the big problems.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________

    Too bad he keeps missing the tackle.

    December 8, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  13. John Geheran

    How, pray tell, Mr. Kerry, "is peace possible" when Palestinian (both Hamas thugs and PLO terrorists) leadership remains committed to the destruction of Israel? Until the West recognizes this fundamental reality and effectively addresses this issue as part of the peace talks, there is little hope for a positive outcome. Continuing to sweep this issue under the rug will get the peace process nowhere.

    December 8, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  14. romany

    Iran done? is he kidding they are now installing new centrifuges so they can refine high grade uranium even quicker, these people are wearing blindfolds when it comes to Iran, they will develop a nuclear bomb and it will be Obama's fault for lifting the sanctions

    December 8, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  15. God was real

    Just curious, for everyone that does not like this deal? are you fairytale believing theist that believes in OT?
    sorry not trying to be condescending but rather curious.

    December 8, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  16. Old_timer

    Why dont obama and kerry turn to the good ols USA just this once! ! !

    December 8, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  17. Don in albuquerque

    Ya know, it is truly amazing to read how many people posting here are just salivating at the thought of starting a world war. They are critical of the POTUS to the point of being abusive, obscene, and insulting. And all this because they have no solutions. When they finally get their war, I hope they get to watch their children become the first to become canon fodder. Who in the world was it who said "Blessed are the peacemakers," probably some damn liberal.

    December 8, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  18. WOW

    WOW still drinking that liberal kookaid I see, he is the worst president in our nations history!

    December 8, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. Stuffit

    That is scary. How many times has he pivoted his laser like focus and superior management skills to the economy during his term in office and yet he is still a complete failure. I get the feeling that all he can really do is come up with ways to suck more money from those of us who are left that still work to support the dope addicts, welfare frauds and corrupt union bosses who still get a tingle up their legs whenever he opens his lying mouth..

    December 8, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  20. ed Poko

    Iran done ??? HAHAHAHAHA! Iran has just done a great Muslim thing – Iran got Berry and Kerry to get on their knees and surrender American.
    You can talk about other government leaders be dumb but America's is "STUPID!!!" He gave the Islamic terrorist every thing they want and need to destroy Israel first and then America.
    We have to find some legal way to GET RID OF THE BLACK PLAGUE destroying America and the Christian way of preserving life...

    December 8, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  21. just saying

    iran is as 'done' as the obamacare web site. it is as 'done' as the economy and jobs in the usa. it is as 'done' as the pursuit of the terrorists that killed our ambassador and 3 others in benghazi. it is as 'done' as the war in syria that continues to kill thousands.

    how many times are these clowns going to perform some meaningless act, declare victory and then move on to the next miracle solution to a problem that actually does nothing? the msm continues to try and paint obama as a winner when he has actually accomplished virtually nothing.

    December 8, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  22. ru serious

    Three more years left for these fools to make things even worse than they are. Thanks, dumb Oprah celebrity influenced electorate. How about next time voting for someone with competence in something other than campaigning....and giving teleprompter speeches. UGH.

    December 8, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  23. Tampa Tim

    Under Bush, North Korea got their nuclear weapons. Yet the brain dead right wingnuts think the Bush Doctrine is better than diplomacy. Stupid wingnuts.

    December 8, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. Tampa Tim

    Well, I think working with the other 5 nations to get Iran to abandon their weapons is better than calling them and North Korea members of the axis of evil, then take a nap for 5 years.

    December 8, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  25. Tampa Tim

    Like the Bush Doctrine, republicans are done, and neither will be missed.

    December 8, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
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