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

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"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. Dmitry


    December 7, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  2. KEVIN

    We need to stop yapping about what we think Israel should do and MAKE them do it. Do NOT let AIPAC dictate what our political leaders do. Israel is 100% dependent on the US for its existance and we can make them do whatever we want.

    December 7, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  3. The Liberal Perspective

    LOL, yeah right!

    December 7, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  4. dirksterdude

    None of it matters because neither Israel or the Palestinians want peace. I constantly hear about all the deals and effort expended attempting to create peace, but in all that time where are the Arabs who essentially caused this mess in the first place? They invaded Israel and Israel decided what they needed to do for there security was take over the Palestinian Territories. I note the territories added to Jordan aren't being asked to be returned. If you want peace a wider peace will have to be achieved not just with the Palestinians, but with the Arab states. That is probably impossible until there is no choice.

    December 7, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  5. Steve

    "Mission Accomplished"

    And GW Bush congratulates Mr. Obama

    December 7, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  6. Ruth

    Let's see Iran a done deal,Al-Queda is on the run ,I killed Bin-Laden,I screwed up obamacare,the NSA is not spying on us,the IRS is not targeting people, Benghazi was just because of a video,I love to travel and tell everybody Americans are sorry,for what I do not know,Solyndra and 5 other bankrupt companies I bankrolled ,the wonderful Stimulus that I funded ,for what I do not know,Oh yea I put handicapped access on every street corner in America, cash for clunkers,that was a bust, Fort Hood was a workplace violence attack, the Mexican borders are still wide open,lost money on the GM bailout.....I would go on but I am tired of pointing out his legacy he will leave behind

    December 7, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  7. Jamal

    This endevour is DOA! Israel will never go back t the 1967 and internationally recognized borders. I hope president Obama is not asking the Palestinians to give up half of what is left of their land under Israeli occupation.

    December 7, 2013 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  8. John Rosen

    Success is in the eye of the beholder. Now that they got hoodwinked by Iran, it's time to move on while Iran continues it's nuclear program.

    December 7, 2013 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  9. Thomas

    Let's get some things done in the world , The do Nothings can do Nothing .

    December 7, 2013 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  10. Puzzled

    What delusional neophytes ! Amateurs ready to accept anything to look good in the mirror. These are cultures used to
    dealing in centuries to make their goals reality. So, all this guy had to do is look "smiley". say the magic words and get
    8 billion dollars released so they can but the crap they need to make bombs and then when the 6 months are up we will
    slap them on the wrist and they go merrily on their way to do more no good. How's that Arab Spring working for you
    Obama ?

    December 7, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  11. liberal lies

    Obama knows whats good for Israel. Bibi and the war mongerers will have to invest another 911 to stop peace in the middle east.

    December 7, 2013 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  12. carlos

    Still hard to believe these buffoons are in charge.

    December 7, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  13. bergus

    how long is that going to last so long as palestinians teach their elementary students about how to kill israelis?

    December 7, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  14. Patrick

    “What has been released by the website of the White House as a fact sheet is a one-sided interpretation of the agreed text in Geneva and some of the explanations and words in the sheet contradict the text of the Joint Plan of Action, and this fact sheet has unfortunately been translated and released in the name of the Geneva agreement by certain media, which is not true,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham told the Iranian press on Tuesday.


    December 7, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  15. Jeff

    I thought the PA wasn't willing to consider an interim deal... has that changed?

    December 7, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  16. Juan in El Paso

    It's is all giggles and smiles!

    December 7, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  17. Redeye Dog


    December 7, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  18. reply

    Ops, bet any deal means the USA puts up a lot of cash we just simply don't have. Oh, and ObamaCare is going to cost us Trillions.

    December 7, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  19. hawaiiduude

    So tired of israeli antics. Ket the illegal settlements out of Palestine.

    December 7, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  20. mpgunner

    Wow, they are "done" with Iran? Why am I not surprised at this partial, half backed job on Iran. What a joke.

    December 7, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  21. Larry S

    If they dont have peace now.Obama dont want peace.He's the biggest race's ever.He a person needs to be out of Office.IMPEACH HIM.

    December 7, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  22. Kman66

    Iran is "done"? I guess giving in to their stubbornness equals an accomplishment in the administration's eyes. Does anyone truly believe this is the last we'll hear of their attempts to make nuclear weapons?

    Wanna buy a bridge?

    December 7, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  23. herbsuperb

    Done my foot! Has Iran signed a non-aggression treaty with Israel? No. Have they publicly stated that Israel has the right to exist, and that they will no longer threaten them? No. Are there people still chanting in the streets 'Death to America, Death to Israel'? Yes. Nothing has been resolved. This is another epic failure for the Obama 'administration'. This clown has NO IDEA what he is doing. Years from now, a conservative president is going to have to look like the bad guy again and use tough measures to fix this mess because Obama is spineless and refused to do it NOW when it should be done. Thanks Obama.

    December 7, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  24. correctlycenter

    When will the US ever learn? Every time we get involved in dividing the land of Israel, disaster strikes! " The Perfect Storm", Hurricane Katrina to name a few recent endeavors. Besides, the Palestinians will never be satisfied unless they have the entire scrap of what's left of Israel...

    December 7, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  25. j

    and not a word about the jailed American pastor... bunch of traitors!

    December 7, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
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