CMEP Bulletin: Can Obama Seal the Deal for a Framework?

CMEP Bulletin: Can Obama Seal the Deal for a Framework?

Churches for Middle East Peace’s weekly update on peace efforts in #Palestine and #Israel

Seven months ago, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brought Israeli and Palestinian negotiators back to the table after a three-year hiatus. The parties agreed to an April 2014 deadline to prevent open-ended talks that did not produce results. Secretary Kerry has been indefatigable in his efforts, visiting the region ten times since taking office. His latest strategy is to have a not a final agreement but a framework for negotiations by the end of April, giving the parties more time hammer out the details. Despite the shuttle diplomacy, it is clear the secretary of state is going to need all the help he can get to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to even a clear framework for negotiations.

Enter Obama.

Today, The New York Times reports that President Obama will press Netanyahu to agree to the framework at their next meeting on Monday at the White House. The White House also announced this week Abbas is coming to the White House on March 17.

If Obama can get Netanyahu and Abbas on board for the framework that would outline general terms for issues like security, borders and refugees, then the negotiations could be extended with, “with a new target of completing a treaty by the end of 2014” according to The New York Times’ administration sources.

So far in his second administration Obama has let  Kerry do most of the heavy lifting. In Obama’s first term, he made Israeli-Palestinian a priority only to have negotiations collapse over settlement construction three months after a high profile meeting between Netanyahu and Abbas at the White House. The NYT reports “The challenge for the White House has been to redeploy the president only when it is believed he can make a critical difference. With Mr. Kerry’s self-imposed deadline nearing, and with little indication that Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas have resolved key differences, that moment is now, the [White House officials] said.”

Secretary Kerry has explicitly acknowledged for the first time that a final agreement will not happen by April 29. He told reporters this week, “We are trying to get the framework … If we have used these seven months thus far to get an understanding of where the parties are and to be able to shape the final negotiation, then we get into the final negotiation.” He continued, “I wouldn’t be pursuing it if I didn’t think it was worthwhile… I hope very much that we are able to get both parties to do what is necessary to enter the most critical stage of this, which is the final phase, the final status negotiation … around a framework which is clear and defined.”