August 20, 2010
Top-Down TrackProximity Talks
Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell is concluding his sixth round
of talks this week, which have included meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa
, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan
, Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner
. Plans for proximity talks were announced in March, but the first round did not begin until May 9
due to contention
over Israeli settlement expansion in East Jerusalem. The discussions, which are being held in private, are focused on
reconciling the goals of the Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli government would like
to use the discussions as a stepping stone to direct talks while the Palestinian Authority (PA) wants
to make sufficient progress on security and borders as a means of assessing Israel’s seriousness before entering into direct talks.
Additional Administration Diplomatic and Security Efforts
In May, President Obama asked
Congress to approve $205 million for Israel’s Iron Dome system. Additionally, among other defense cooperation efforts
, the United States continues to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge; it provided Israel with $2.775 billion per year in security assistance in FY 2010; and recently concluded a 1,000 person joint military exercise, the largest ever between the countries.
Following the raid on the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in the six-vessel flotilla attempting to break the maritime closure of the Gaza Strip, President Obama supported
a United Nations Security Council statement on June 1 which condemned the actions aboard the flotilla and called for an impartial investigation. Obama described the Gaza situation and broader conflict as unsustainable
in the long-term. On June 14, the White House declared its support for an internal Israeli investigation into the flotilla incident. Israel responded to mounting international pressure by easing the blockade
on June 20, a move applauded
by the United States. Details of the plan were publicized
on July 5, coinciding with a meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
President Abbas visited the White House on June 9
. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on June 23
and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Obama in Washington on July 6
, his fifth visit during the Obama administration. On July 8, Obama sat for an interview
with Israel’s Channel 2 television network and on July 9, Obama spoke
with Abbas on the phone about the situation in the region.
The Obama administration works in close coordination with the international community and the Office of the Quartet Representative to support the institution-building work of the PA. Examples of this work include:
: The United States provided financial, organizational and promotional support
for the June 2-3 Palestine Investment Conference (PIC), which culminated with France, Italy and the United States pledging a combined $655 million
for institution building in the West Bank. In addition, during Abbas’ White House visit
, the United States announced $400 million
to the PA for housing, education and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Two-hundred and forty million dollars of this amount is allocated for the creation of a landmark affordable mortgage finance facility
which will double the number of Palestinians able to purchase homes. Security Sector
: The United States continues to coordinate
with Britain, Canada and Jordan in training Palestinian security forces; five battalions have already deployed
in major West Bank cities. The United States is also supporting ongoing efforts to build and upgrade PA training centers and other installations, and assisting the PA Interior Ministry with strategic security planning.
: The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supports ongoing projects that promote democracy and governance in the Palestinian territories. On June 2, USAID pledged $25 million to facilitate PA efforts to develop a legislative and regulatory framework
to promote investment and commerce.
Movement and Access
: In May, USAID gave authority over three reconstructed roads to the PA. Reconstruction cost $5.7 million and included work on the Atarah-Ramallah road, which connects the northern West Bank to Ramallah. USAID and Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell are continuing to work with the Israeli Ministry of Defense to improve movement and access at checkpoints and border crossings.
- In addition to previously mentioned visits by Israeli and Palestinian officials, heads of state from Bahrain
, Saudi Arabia
also visited Washington to discuss regional and bilateral issues.
- Vice President Joseph R. Biden visited Egypt
on June 6 to discuss new ways forward on the Gaza blockade. The next day Egypt declared
that it would keep its Rafah checkpoint open indefinitely to allow eligible Gazans to cross the border.
- Robert Ford’s confirmation
to be the first U.S. ambassador to Syria since the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005 was delayed because of speculation that Syria provided Hezbollah with long-range Scud missiles. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry visited Damascus
on May 23 to discuss these concerns. In early July, Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. Ynet reported
that Specter delivered a message from Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon to Assad during his visit.
For more information on the Obama administration’s efforts towards Middle East peace before March see our background basics from March 23 and September 22.
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Setting the Record Straight
Determined to Reach a Common Objective
“We knew at the outset that the task would be difficult. We acknowledged that publicly and privately. We knew this would be a road with many bumps— and there have been many bumps—and that continues to this day. But we are not deterred. We are, to the contrary, determined more than ever to proceed to realize the common objective, which we all share, of a Middle East that is at peace with security and prosperity for the people of Israel, for Palestinians, and for all the people in the region. We will continue our efforts in that regard, undeterred and undaunted by the difficulties, the complexities or the bumps in the road.”—George Mitchell, special envoy for Middle East peace, remarks with Prime Minister Netanyahu, September 29, 2010
No to a Third Intifada — Hussein Ibish, senior fellow, American Task Force on Palestine (Common Ground News Service)
The Road Forward on Middle East Peace
Event: October 1, 2009 - 12:00pm-1:00pm
Winnie Stachelberg, Senior Vice President for External Affairs, Center for American Progress
Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL)
Moran Banai, U.S. Editor of Middle East Bulletin
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