Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech Thursday at Tel Aviv University in Israel. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)
Jerusalem (CNN) - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says it is difficult to have any negotiations with Israel unless it revokes plans to build new homes on disputed land in Jerusalem, Abbas' top negotiator said Thursday.
Abbas made the comment while speaking to Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, negotiator Saeb Erakat said.
Abbas told Moussa he has asked the United States to demand that Israel stop the construction.
Israel announced Tuesday it would build 1,600 new apartments on land that both Israel and the Palestinians claim. The Palestinians contend the area is in Arab East Jerusalem; Israel's Interior Ministry says it is not.
The dispute came during a visit to Israel and the West Bank by Vice President Joe Biden. He criticized Israel's decision to build the apartments, saying Wednesday that it undermines the trust both sides need for negotiations.
Ramallah, West Bank (CNN) - The United States will hold both Israel and the Palestinians responsible for any steps that make peace between them more difficult, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday.
Biden, in the region meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders, repeated strong criticism he made of an Israeli move a day earlier.
He said Tuesday he "condemned" Israel's decision to build 1,600 new apartments on land which both Israel and the Palestinians claim.
The Palestinians contend the area is in East Jerusalem; Israel's Interior Ministry says it is not.
"The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I've had here in Israel," Biden said Tuesday.
Washington (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden will travel to the Middle East early next month, the vice president's office announced Monday.
During the week of March 8, Biden is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Jordan's King Abdullah, according to a release from his office.
He will "discuss the full range of bilateral and regional issues," the release stated.
Washington (CNN) – The Obama administration is making a renewed push for Mideast peace, stepping up pressure on Israelis and Palestinians to resume talks focusing on borders of a future Palestinian state and the status of Jerusalem.
Doing so, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday, would address Palestinian concerns about Israeli settlement construction.
Previously, the Obama administration made freezing Israeli settlements in Palestinian-controlled areas its priority, an approach that only hardened both sides' resolve and stalled talks for months.
But Clinton suggested Friday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas drop his demand for a total settlement freeze before talks could resume.
"Resolving borders resolves settlements. Resolving Jerusalem resolves settlements," she told reporters after talks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. "We need to lift our sights and instead of ... looking down at the trees, we need to look at the forest."
Echoing Clinton's comments, Judeh said, "if you resolve the question of borders, then you automatically resolve not only settlements in Jerusalem, but you identify the nature on the ground of the two-state solution and how it looks like. And then all other things fit in place."
Washington (CNN) - The White House chief of staff Tuesday reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel and said the dispute over settlements should not keep the Israelis and Palestinians from holding peace talks.
"No one should allow the issue of settlements to distract from the goal of a lasting peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world," Rahm Emanuel told participants at a conference of the Jewish Federations of North America.
He urged Israelis and Palestinians to hold peace negotiations soon to address key "final status" issues of security, borders, refugees and Jerusalem. But he added that that "unilateral actions should be avoided and cannot dictate the outcome," a pointed reference to continued settlement activity by Israel.
Emanuel filled in for President Barack Obama, who canceled his scheduled appearance before the group to attend the Fort Hood memorial service. He reiterated statements made by Obama stressing the "unbreakable" bond between the United States and Israel.
JERUSALEM (CNN) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting on Friday with the top U.S. envoy to the Middle East was "useful and constructive," the Israeli leader's office said.
Talks between George Mitchell and Netanyahu focused on efforts to restart the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the two men agreed to continue their discussions in the coming days, the minister's office said.
Mitchell will meet Saturday with two of Netanyahu's advisers, Yizhak Molcho and Mike Hertzog, it said.
He also plans to talk with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Saturday, the State Department said.
Mitchell returned to the region this week to advocate peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, but significant obstacles remain.
JERUSALEM (CNN) – The hopes for renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks dimmed Friday despite the fast-paced shuttle diplomacy efforts of top U.S. diplomat George Mitchell.
Mitchell, the U.S. envoy for the Middle East, capped off a week of diplomacy in the region with a second round of talks with both sides. He met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Mitchell has been working to broker a last-minute deal before the start of the the Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown on Friday, and the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday this weekend. The deal would allow a trilateral meeting among Netanyahu, Abbas and President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York.
One of the sticking points has been the Israeli settlement freeze issue.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - U.S. President Barack Obama asserted Tuesday that there has been "movement in the right direction" from both Israelis and Palestinians in response to a renewed push for a comprehensive Middle East peace.
Obama made the claim during a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the White House. The two leaders said they discussed a broad range of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the prospect of nuclear-armed Iran, the evolving situation in Iraq, and several new health and education initiatives.
They also discussed the prospects for domestic political reform in Egypt - a sensitive subject for the U.S. administration and Mubarak, who is frequently criticized by human rights activists and political opponents for suppressing internal dissent.
"If all sides are willing to move off of the rut" that has characterized negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in recent years, then "there's an extraordinary opportunity" for progress, Obama said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Don't you just love a parade? Apparently the Obama administration does too, as evidenced by the steady stream of top U.S. officials visiting Israel this week. A bevy of heavy hitters are there, the likes of which haven't been seen since the Persian Gulf War.
Just as Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrapped up his meetings there, Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell arrived for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mitchell will be followed later this week by national security adviser James Jones and Dennis Ross, the White House's point man on Iran.
Aaron Miller, a former Mideast peace negotiator under President Clinton and author of "The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace," calls it "the big hug," a show of reassurance to Israel that the U.S.-Israeli relationship remains strong despite the current squabble over settlements.