It seems there is a renewed US interest in the Middle East, with White House spokesman Jay Carney announcing Tuesday that President
According to Israel's Channel 10 news, the visit to Israel is scheduled for March 20, although the White House has yet to confirm a specific date. Channel 10 also claimed that Obama will visit Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, as part of the trip.
Obama's visit to Israel will be his first since taking office, and Carney said that he is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister , as well as with Palestinian and Jordanian leaders, during the tour.
National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor told reporters that the start of Obama's second term as president and the formation of a new Israeli government offers an opportunity to reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds between the US and Israel. The trip will also be an opportunity to discuss the way forward on a broad range of issues of mutual concern, including Iran and Syria.
Despite this support, the US has been highly critical of Israel's settlement building in the West Bank, even though there is no indication that the president will capitulate on his anti-settlement views.
In addition to the announcement of Obama's trip, the new US Secretary of State on Sunday stressed his commitment to promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace in separate telephone conversations with Palestinian and Netanyahu.
In a call to Abbas, Kerry discussed the importance of holding meetings in the near future that will allow for the continuation of the peace process, the Palestinian president's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said. As well as being very interested in the peace process, Kerry stressed that he is aware of the economic hardships facing the Palestinian people.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that in her conversation with Netanyahu, Kerry underscored his personal commitment, and that of the president's, to supporting Israel's security and to pursuing a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The US move comes after several newspapers reported that Britain and France are planning to propose a new political initiative that will relaunch peace talks. Sources said that such an initiative would also require intervention from the US administration.
On Saturday evening, Netanyahu called on to return to the negotiation table. He claimed his government is committed to reaching a settlement in the ongoing conflict but he did not elaborate how. Meanwhile, Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem remains the main obstacle to resuming peace negotiations, which have been on hold since September 2010.
I hope that the US administration has a new plan for the resumption of negotiations between Palestine and Israel. The Americans know very well that Israel's continued settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it has occupied since 1967, simply means there will be no room for a Palestinian state at all.
If Obama has the will in his new plan to stop construction of settlements and put pressure on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders, it means that he is serious about dealing with the Palestinian issue, and that will certainly bring peace to the region. However, if the US administration is not planning to impose any pressure on Israel, it means the continuation of violence in the region.
Just yesterday, Netanyahu said that Israel will not remove settlements from the West Bank as part of an agreement. He has also made it clear to the international community that a "fair and realistic settlement" with Palestinians cannot include the eviction of hundreds of thousands of Israelis from their homes in settlements built beyond the 1967 border. This means that Israel will continue in its aggression, without paying any attention to the peace plan or to a Palestinian state.
For sure, peace will not last forever to be the only option for the Palestinian people. Palestinian people have a lot of alternatives. Netanyahu should review the history well and ask himself, "why did Sharon leave Gaza?"
Even Sharon himself said in 2000, that the security of Israeli settlements in Gaza were as important as Tel Aviv's security. He also added at the time that these settlements were part of Israel's territory. Despite all that, Sharon withdrew from Gaza! Can the reader guess the reason for his withdrawal?
Additionally, Obama should not be interested in the Syrian and Iranian file at the expense of the Palestinian file. The US administration needs to be fully aware that the security and stability of the world, including the US, depends on America taking bold decisions such as supporting the Palestinian people and restoring their rights.
The Palestinians are building many hopes on Obama's visit because they are the people who want peace for the future generations.