Obama to seek Netanyahu backing for peace framework
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Washington had previously set an April 29 deadline for a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, but the framework is designed as an attempt to extend the diplomacy. REUTERS PhotoPresident Barack Obama will March 3 try to convince Benjamin Netanyahu to accept a U.S. framework for final peace talks with the Palestinians, but the Israeli leader is vowing to resist all "pressures."
Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu will also discuss Iranian nuclear diplomacy, but likely struggle to reconcile differing views after Israel blasted an interim pact with Tehran reached last year as a bad deal.
In their Oval Office talks March 3, the U.S. leader will ask Netanyahu to agree to a framework for a conclusive round of peace talks with the Palestinians pieced together by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Washington had previously set an April 29 deadline for a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, but the framework is designed as an attempt to extend the diplomacy.
It will be Obama's most significant entry into peacemaking after his first term effort ended when Netanyahu refused to extend a freeze in settlement construction which Palestinians said was a condition for resuming direct talks.
Unusually, Netanyahu will not be the center of attention in Washington, where his visits to the White House have sometimes featured public disagreements with Obama and testy photo ops.
Obama is now consumed by Russia's incursion into Ukraine, which is developing into the biggest transatlantic crisis since the end of the Cold War.
US draft addresses 'key issues'
The framework, yet to be made public, addresses the most nettlesome issues surrounding the Palestinian drive for statehood, including borders, security and the future status of Jerusalem.
Obama will make a similar plea for Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas to accept the document when he visits the White House in two weeks time.
"There's a sense that the negotiations have reached a point where only presidential engagement, direct presidential engagement, can move them forward," said Haim Malka, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The president said in an interview with Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg that he would tell Netanyahu that time was running out for Israel to follow the peace track.
"If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?" Obama said, paraphrasing his appeal to Netanyahu.
If Netanyahu "does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach," Obama said in the interview, according to a transcript sent by the White House.
Netanyahu however adopted a tough stance before leaving Israel on a trip that includes an appearance at the annual policy conference of the America Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby group.
"We will discuss the Iranian issue and the diplomatic process... In recent years the state of Israel has been under various pressures. We have rejected them...This is what has been and what will be." Netanyahu and Abbas face difficult political decisions on whether to sign up for the framework.
Netanyahu is "in a position now where he has to make a decision," said Alan Elsner, vice president of J Street, another U.S. Jewish lobby group.
"It's not easy for him because there are political costs - but the cost of not moving forward is much greater for Israel."