Washington (CNN) - The United States is urging diplomacy by the Mideast Quartet to help push a speedy resumption of direct peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, a State Department spokesman said Tuesday.
"We are consulting with the Quartet and looking to see how we can encourage the parties to begin direct negotiations," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
His comments come as Special U.S. Envoy George Mitchell held what Crowley called a "serious and positive" meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank on Tuesday in an effort to persuade Abbas to launch direct talks. Mitchell is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.
The parties are taking part in "proximity talks," in which Mitchell has been shuttling between the sides with little substantial progress.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama told an Israeli television network that he thinks there can be a Middle East peace agreement by the end of his current term, but "it's going to be wrenching."
In an interview conducted Wednesday with Channel 2 Israel that was made public Thursday, Obama said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might be "well positioned" to bring about a deal with the Palestinians because of his reputation as a conservative "hawk."
"The Israeli people are going to have to overcome legitimate skepticism and more than legitimate fears in order to get a change that I think will secure Israel for another 60 years," Obama said of a peace agreement. He also said of a deal: "It will be wrenching."
Washington (CNN) - U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly emphasized the strength and durability of ties between their two countries Tuesday - part of an effort to dispel the notion that relations between the United States and Israel have frayed in recent months.
They said they had discussed new steps that can be taken to revitalize a Middle East peace process that many observers believe has recently stalled.
The two leaders also took aim at Iran, highlighting common efforts to prevent that country from acquiring a nuclear arsenal.
The meeting - their fifth since Netanyahu took office last spring - took place at the White House against a backdrop of speculation that the two leaders are increasingly at odds on a range of key issues.
Washington (CNN) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will next meet with President Barack Obama in Washington on July 6 for talks originally planned for earlier this month, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said in an interview broadcast Sunday.
Emanuel told ABC's "This Week" program that Netanyahu's fifth visit of the Obama administration would discuss the Middle East peace process and other regional issues.
Netanyahu had been scheduled to meet with Obama in Washington on June 1, but the Israeli prime minister postponed the trip after Israel's military raid on an aid flotilla headed to blockaded Gaza resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists aboard one of the ships.
Thomas was also dropped by her agent Nine Speakers, Inc. Sunday, CNN has learned, and Craig Crawford, who coauthored “Listen Up, Mr. President” with Thomas, said in a blog post that he “will no longer be working with Helen on our book projects.”
Thomas has apologized for her comments that she made to Rabbilive.com about Israel.
Specifically, she was asked, “Any comments on Israel?”
“Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine,” she responded.
The interviewer then asked “Any better comments on Israel?” To which Thomas said, “Remember, these people are occupied and it’s their land. It’s not German’s. It’s not Poland’s.”
Thomas was then asked where the Jews in Israel should go and what they should do? Thomas responded, “They should go home” which the White House reporter identified as “Poland, Germany . . . and America and everywhere else.”
Thomas is considered the “dean” of the White House press corps after decades covering the presidency. The syndicated columnist for Hearst Corporation’s newspapers holds a privileged seat in the front row of the White House press briefing room where she regularly fires sharp questions on the major issues of the day at White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
In the apology posted on her website Friday, Thomas said she “deeply” regretted her comments. “They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”
But her apology was not enough for Davis, who served as special counsel to former President Bill Clinton.
(CNN) - When Rabbi Jack Moline recently confronted his friend Rahm Emanuel about mounting Jewish anxiety over the Obama administration's Mideast policy, he was surprised at the White House Chief of Staff's response: to invite Moline and more than a dozen other rabbis to the White House for a nearly two-hour conversation.
But what really surprised Moline, who leads a northern Virginia synagogue, was that Emanuel invited the whole group back a couple of weeks ago for another long sit-down.
"We invited rabbis who'd been supportive of the president since the election," said Moline, who helped organize the two meetings of rabbis from across the country. "And who found themselves concerned about his approach to the Middle East process."
As the Obama administration steps up efforts to restart the Middle East peace process - with U.S.-moderated talks between Israel and Palestinian leaders starting earlier this month and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled to visit the White House next week - it has launched a simultaneous campaign to allay fears within the American Jewish community over how that process will work.
Washington (CNN) - Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri meets with President Barack Obama on Monday on his first official visit to Washington after assuming office, the White House announced.
The two are expected to talk about a broad range of issues, including regional peace and security.
These are the first face-to-face talks between the two men since the United States moved to put an ambassador back in Syria, a country with which Lebanon has a difficult relationship.
Washington pulled its ambassador from Damascus in 2005, after Hariri's father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was killed in a huge car bombing, which the United States blamed on Syria.
Syria denied the accusations, but an investigation by a United Nations Special Tribunal found Syrian government involvement.
(CNN) - President Barack Obama praised the recent start of indirect peace talks between Israel and Palestinian leaders during a phone call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday, the White House said.
According to the White House, Obama and Abbas discussed the need to move from proximity talks to direct negotiations in order to reach agreement on permanent status issues "as soon as possible."
The first round of talks began Sunday after the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee approved initiating the negotiations after a three-hour meeting in Ramallah in the West Bank a day earlier.
U.S. special envoy George Mitchell is brokering the talks.
In the Tuesday phone call, the White House said, Obama "reiterated his strong support for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state living in peace and security with Israel" - a crucial issue for the Palestinians.
Washington (CNN) - Only a third of Americans approve of the way President Obama's handling the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, according to a new national poll.
A Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday morning indicates that 35 percent of the public gives the president a thumbs up on how he's dealing with the situation between Israel and the Palestinians, with 44 percent saying they disapprove, and just over one in five unsure.
This stands in contrast with how Americans feel about Obama's overall handling of foreign policy, with 48 percent approving and 42 percent saying they disapprove.
According to the poll, two-thirds of Jewish voters disapprove of how the president's handling Israeli-Palestinian relations, with 28 percent saying they approve. Jewish voters were big backers of Obama in the 2008 presidential election, with exit polls indicating that nearly eight of ten backed the Democratic candidate.
Two-thirds of people questioned in the survey say that the president should be a strong supporter of Israel but, by a 42 percent to 34 percent margin, voters say Obama's not a strong supporter of Israel.
Jerusalem (CNN) - Israel's defense minister expressed concern Monday about deteriorating relations with the United States and warned that "the growing alienation" with President Obama's administration "is not a good thing for the state of Israel."
Speaking to Israel radio on the commemoration of Memorial Day, Ehud Barak said it was important "to act to change our relations with the United States." Barak is the center-left Labor Party leader who serves in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's largely right-wing government.
"We are tied with the U.S. in bonds of many years of friendship, of a strategic partnership. From them we get 3 billion dollars every year, from them we get the best planes. They stood by us when [we] needed to fight. ..."
He said that Israel has American weapons worth billions of dollars that Israel would use "if, God forbid, a war is forced upon us."