Tag Archives: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Agreement on basis to resume Mideast peace talks: Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that an agreement has been reached between the Israelis and Palestinians for the basis to resume Middle East peace talks.

“I’m pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Kerry told reporters in Amman, Jordan.

“This is a significant and welcome step forward. The agreement is still in the process of being finalised so we are absolutely not going to talk about any of the elements now.”

The top US diplomat also said that Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni would meet him in Washington “to begin initial talks within the next week or so”.

The announcement came at the end of four days of intense diplomacy by the secretary of state as he consulted Israeli and Palestinian leaders from his base in the Jordanian capital.

Talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have been frozen for three years, after Israel refused to agree to a new suspension of settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.

In his brief comments to the press, Kerry praised the courage of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“No one believes the long-standing differences between the parties will be resolved overnight or just wiped away. We know that the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead,” he said.

“Today, however, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because of the courageous leadership by President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Both of them have chosen to make difficult choices here and both of them were instrumental.”

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

New EU guidelines limit Israel funding

The European Union has published new guidelines explicitly banning any EU funding of Israeli institutions operating in territories occupied since the 1967 Mideast war, amid vigorous Israeli objections.

The EU holds that Jewish settlements in territories such as the West Bank and east Jerusalem are illegal. The Palestinians want some of those territories for their hoped-for state.

After EU officials announced plans this week for the new guidelines, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with several European leaders to express his opposition.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the document released Friday “is meant to clarify the EU’s position” and is not meant to harm efforts toward Mideast peace. The new rules come into force Jan. 1. Very little EU funding currently goes to Israeli bodies in occupied territories.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Kerry flying to West Bank to pursue peace talks

A U.S. official says Secretary of State John Kerry will fly to the West Bank to press his effort for a new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The extra stop indicates a possibility of success in Kerry’s sixth trip to the region this year, despite deep differences between the two sides.

The official said Kerry will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. The secretary had a two-hour session with the chief Palestinian negotiator in Amman on Friday morning.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

After Palestinian leaders demanded further guarantees before restarting talks with Israel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed his ideas with the chief Palestinian negotiator in Amman on Friday.

A stormy, high-level meeting of senior Palestinian leaders called to discuss Kerry’s latest peace proposal ended with a decision early Friday to demand that Israel agree on the general border of a future Palestinian state, officials said.

The demand casts a cloud of uncertainty over months of U.S. mediation efforts because Israel rejects preconditions.

Hoping to push Israelis and Palestinians toward talks, President Barack Obama asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to work with Kerry “to resume negotiations with Palestinians as soon as possible,” according to a statement released by the White House late Thursday.

No details were immediately available about Kerry’s meeting with Erekat. The talks lasted more than two hours with a short break in the middle, possibly for consultations.

The Palestinians demand that the starting point for border talks must be the cease-fire line that held from 1949 until the 1967 war, when Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Palestinians claim those territories for their future state, with modifications reached through agreed land swaps that could allow major Jewish settlement blocs built in the West Bank becoming part of Israel proper, in exchange for territories in Israel.

Previous Israeli governments twice negotiated on the basis of the 1967 lines, but no peace accord was …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Kerry meets Palestinian negotiator about talks

After Palestinian leaders demanded further guarantees before restarting talks with Israel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed his ideas with the chief Palestinian negotiator in Amman on Friday.

A stormy, high-level meeting of senior Palestinian leaders called to discuss U.S Kerry’s latest peace proposal ended with a decision early Friday to demand that Israel agree on the general border of a future Palestinian state, officials said.

The demand casts a cloud of uncertainty over months of U.S. mediation efforts because Israel rejects preconditions.

Hoping to push Israelis and Palestinians toward talks, President Barack Obama asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to work with Kerry “to resume negotiations with Palestinians as soon as possible,” according to a statement released by the White House late Thursday.

The Palestinians demand is that the starting point for border talks must be the cease-fire line that held from 1949 until the 1967 war, when Israel captured the West Bank. Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Palestinians claim those territories for their future state, with modifications reached through agreed land swaps that could allow major Jewish settlement blocs built in the West Bank becoming part of Israel proper, in exchange for territories in Israel.

Previous Israeli governments twice negotiated on the basis of the 1967 lines, but no peace accord was reached.

Palestinian official Wasel Abu Yussef said Erekat would ask for more clarifications from Kerry on what Israel expects from negotiations.

Abu Yussef said Palestinians did not want to reject Kerry’s efforts to restart negotiations outright.

The Palestinians did not bring up their often-repeated demand that Israel stop building in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem before talks could resume. One official said that if Israel accepts the 1967 lines as a basis, that would make most of the settlements illegitimate.

While Kerry has not publicized details of his plan, the Arab League’s decision Wednesday to endorse his proposal raised speculation that the Palestinians would agree. Abbas traditionally has sought the blessing of his Arab brethren before making any major diplomatic initiative.

U.S. officials played down hopes that negotiations would begin soon.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Tehran says Israel PM aims to damage Iran's status

Iran’s foreign ministry is saying Israel’s prime minister seeks to damage relations between Iran and the world, referring to the Jewish state as “a warmonger regime.”

The Tuesday remarks by ministry spokesman Abbas Araghchi come two days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the world to step up pressure on Tehran to halt its disputed nuclear program with tougher sanctions and threats of military action.

Araghchi said Iran views Israel as “angry” about moderate Hasan Rouhani’s victory in June presidential elections, claiming that Israel appears concerned the world will ease pressure in order to engage the Islamic Republic’s next president.

Iran denies Western charges that it is pursuing nuclear weapons, saying its program is for peaceful purposes.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Gas company says Israel taxes may deter investors

The head of the U.S. company leading natural gas exploration off Israel‘s coast on Thursday urged the country to develop a national gas export policy, warning that government tax policy was scaring off potential investors.

Charles Davidson, CEO of Texas-based Noble Energy, criticized Israel‘s decision in 2011 to nearly double tax rates on gas profits after his company had already invested $1 billion in an offshore field. He said the “very unusual” move may have driven away companies from investing in Israel‘s emerging gas sector.

He said he sensed hesitation from potential investors who could help develop the Leviathan field, a large find that is expected to produce enough gas for export.

“I felt that … companies were a little bit reluctant because of what had happened on taxes in the past,” Davidson said at the company’s local offices in the coastal town of Herzliya.

In 2011, Israel‘s government raised taxes on gas and oil finds, boosting the revenues to between 52 and 62 percent from under 30 percent.

Davidson is in Israel after gas from Tamar, one of Israel‘s new, sizable fields, started being extracted last month. He hopes to convince authorities to agree on an export policy that would provide clarity for investors looking to develop the resource. For now, the gas is being used for domestic use only and sold at fixed, previously negotiated prices.

On Wednesday, Davidson met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said he “encouraged” him to move on export. He said Netanyahu was receptive but gave no time frame.

The Tamar field was discovered in 2009 and holds an estimated 8.5 trillion cubic feet of gas. Leviathan, found in 2010, boasts an estimated 16 to 18 trillion cubic feet and is expected to go online in 2016. Around that time, Israel is expected to begin exporting.

Israel has yet to adopt an export policy for its natural gas reserves. A 2012 inter-ministerial report concluded that Israel should preserve enough natural gas for itself for 25 years, leaving about half of its estimated reserves for potential export. The discoveries are minimal compared to gas giants Russia, Qatar or Iran but the country’s proximity to Middle Eastern and European markets could make it an important regional player.

The consortium drilling off Israel‘s coast has been pushing for Israel

From: http://feeds.foxnews.com/~r/foxnews/world/~3/B1Fde-_WeME/

Analysis: Hamas wants bigger regional role

Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal has set an ambitious agenda for his new term, seeking to transform his Islamic militant movement that rules Gaza into a widely recognized political force, but without making concessions toward Israel needed for international acceptance.

Re-elected last week, Mashaal will try to deepen ties with regional powers Qatar, Turkey and Egypt, which have already given money or political support to Hamas-run Gaza and could be conduits to the U.S. and Europe, several leading Hamas figures said. Mashaal will also push for a power-sharing deal with his Western-backed Palestinian rival, President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas ideology, rejecting existence of a Jewish state in an Islamic Middle East, stands in the way. The international community insists it will deal with Hamas only if the Islamic militants recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous interim peace deals — conditions Mashaal has repeatedly rejected, though Abbas and his Fatah movement accepted them two decades ago.

Mashaal “wants Hamas to be a recognized and legitimate player,” said Jordan-based analyst Mouin Rabbani, who frequently meets with Palestinian politicians, including Hamas members.

“The challenge and conflict is that he has to demonstrate he can do so without going down the same path as Fatah,” he said. Fatah, for years the dominant force in Palestinian politics, has been severely weakened by years of failed talks with Israel on terms of a Palestinian state.

Key to Mashaal’s plans is a political deal with Abbas, as a possible springboard for joining and eventually taking control of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the umbrella group widely recognized as representing some 11.6 million Palestinians world-wide, according to official Palestinian figures. The Fatah-dominated PLO is largely inactive now, but it remains attractive to Hamas as a way of gaining international status.

A Hamas deal with Abbas would have to wait until the latest U.S. push to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations plays itself out.

Setting up a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem through negotiations with Israel remains Abbas’ goal.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in the region this week to try to restart talks between Israel and Abbas. Chances of that in coming months appear slim because gaps remain wide between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Abbas won’t complicate Kerry’s mission further by renewing talks now

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Kerry upbeat after 3 days of Mideast diplomacy

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he held “very constructive talks” with Israeli and Palestinian leaders during three days of high-level Mideast diplomacy.

He says everyone is committed to continuing a process that could “create the conditions for peace” so direct Israeli-Palestinian talks can resume.

Kerry spoke after meeting Tuesday for private talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians been largely frozen for 4½ years.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Defiant Iran announces 2 new nuclear-linked projects

Iran announced two key nuclear-related projects on Tuesday that expand the country’s ability to extract and process uranium, which can be enriched for reactor fuel but also potentially for atomic weapons.

The development came just days after another round of talks with world powers seeking to limit Tehran’s atomic program ended in a stalemate.

Iran already has uranium mines and the ability to turn the raw ore into a material called yellowcake, which is the first step in the enrichment chain. But the new facilities — the country’s largest uranium mine and processing facility — give Tehran more self-sufficiency over the raw materials and underscore Iran‘s drive to expand its nuclear capacities even as world powers press for concessions.

Iran and the six-nation group — the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany — remain stalemated after the latest round of talks last week over efforts to rein in Iran‘s nuclear program. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said the “door was still open” for a negotiated pact with Iran, but urged Tehran’s leaders to take the first steps to address international concerns that they could seek nuclear weapons.

Iran says it only wants nuclear reactors for electricity and medical applications. Iranian authorities have demanded that world powers acknowledge the country’s right to enrich uranium and ease U.N. and Western sanctions.

“President (Barack) Obama could not be more clear: Iran cannot have and will not have a nuclear weapon,” Kerry said on Tuesday following talks in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose nation has warned it could consider military options against Iranian nuclear sites.

“We are open to negotiation,” Kerry added. “But it is not open-ended, endless negotiation. It cannot be used as an excuse for other effort to try to break out with respect to a nuclear weapon.”

Tuesday’s announcement of the new uranium sites suggests Iran intends to follow through with pledges to expand its nuclear capabilities in defiance of sanctions and other diplomatic pressures.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the start of symbolic start of operations through a video conference for Iran‘s National Day of Nuclear Technology, which marks the anniversary of the first time Iran enriched uranium in 2006.

Ahmadinejad also reiterating past proclamations that Iran has “gone nuclear” and the U.S. and its allies cannot stop Iran‘s progress on what the country calls peaceful atomic development.

State TV simultaneously showed ceremonies at Iran‘s biggest uranium mine at Saghand and a uranium ore concentrate production plant in Ardakan, both in central Iran.

Neither site represents breakout technology for Iran, which already has smaller uranium mines and processing facilities. But it gives Iran greater control in making the raw materials for enrichment to nuclear fuel and, potentially, for warhead-grade material.

Saghand consists of an open pit with a deep mine reached by two shafts. The mine has a capacity of 132,000 tons of uranium ore per year.

The Ardakan Yellowcake Production Plant is Iran‘s industrial-scale facility that turns ore into concentrate, also known as yellowcake, the feedstock for enrichment.

Ahmadinejad defiantly said Iran has already achieved proficiency in …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Kerry meets Israeli leaders to push Mideast peace

Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior Israeli and Palestinian officials amid talk of reviving a decade-old Arab plan for Mideast peace.

Kerry spent the morning of Israel‘s Holocaust memorial day visiting Yad Vashem. He was to meet later Monday with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Kerry then has a dinner with Netanyahu; he met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday.

Kerry is trying to end a 4½-year Israeli-Palestinian stalemate.

He hasn’t publicly outlined a new plan.

But Palestinian and Arab officials say he wants to modify the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that offered peace with Israel for a pullout from territories captured in 1967.

Officials say Kerry seeks Arab-Israeli security commitments and softer language on borders.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Decade-old Mideast peace plan re-emerges

A dormant, decade-old Mideast peace plan has suddenly emerged as a possible key to breaking years of deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians.

A top Palestinian official said Sunday that the visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed interest in reviving the so-called Arab Peace Initiative, a 2002 plan in which the Arab world offered comprehensive peace with Israel in exchange for a full pullout from all territories it captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Arab officials confirmed the Arab League was set to discuss the matter on Monday.

The initiative was revolutionary when it was introduced by Saudi Arabia‘s then crown prince, King Abdullah, and later endorsed by the 22-member Arab League at a summit in Beirut. However, the plan was overshadowed by fierce Israeli-Palestinian fighting at the time and greeted with skepticism by Israel. The Arab League re-endorsed the plan in 2007, and technically, the offer remains in effect.

Key obstacles remain. Israel has not softened its objections to the plan, and the Palestinians turned down a request from Kerry for changes in it.

In the 1967 war, Israel took control of the West Bank, east Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, Sinai and Golan Heights. Israeli returned the Sinai to Egypt in 1982 in the framework of a peace treaty and pulled out of Gaza unilaterally in 2005. Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, and peace talks with Syria over the territory have repeatedly failed.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been deadlocked since late 2008, in large part over the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians refuse to talk while Israel settles its population on the occupied territories where they want to establish their state. They have demanded that Israel accept the 1967 lines as the basis for a future Palestine. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects a return to the 1967 lines and calls for talks with no preconditions.

The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation has also endorsed the 2002 Arab peace initiative.

The plan, if adopted, considers the Arab-Israeli conflict “ended,” offers “normal relations” with Israel and calls for providing “security for all the states of the region.”

Israel has rejected a return to the 1967 lines for both security and spiritual reasons. Israeli leaders have long argued that the 1967 frontiers are indefensible. In addition, a return to those boundaries would mean a withdrawal …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Kerry in Turkey, eyes new bid for talks in Mideast

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Turkey early Sunday on the first leg of a 10-day trip to Europe and Asia that would also seek to unlock long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Kerry was expected to encourage Turkish leaders to continue improving ties with Israel. The two countries were once allies, but relations spiraled downward after Israel‘s 2010 raid on a Turkish flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip. Eight Turks and one Turkish-American died.

Hopes for rapprochement improved after Obama brokered a telephone conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkey‘s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while President Barack Obama was in Israel last month.

Kerry also will coordinate with Erdogan and other Turkish officials on efforts to halt the violence in neighboring Syria.

Kerry planned to fly from Turkey to Jerusalem for meetings with the presidents and prime ministers of both Israel and the Palestinians. He had accompanied Obama there and made a solo trip to Israel shortly after.

Though expectations are low for any breakthrough on Kerry’s trip, his diplomacy represents some of the Obama administration’s most sustained efforts for ending more than six decades of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Kerry probably will seek confidence-building measures between the two sides. Negotiators and observers see little chance right now for immediate progress on the big stumbling blocks toward a two-state peace agreement.

Kerry will also visit Britain and then South Korea, China and Japan, where talks will focus on North Korea‘s nuclear program and escalating threats against the U.S. and its allies.

He is scheduled to return to Washington on April 15.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Mideast Conflict: Gaza Militants Fire Rockets At Israel Following Airstrikes (VIDEO)

By The Huffington Post News Editors

JERUSALEM — Gaza militants fired rockets at Israel early Thursday, defying warnings that Israel will not tolerate renewed attacks on the country’s south. In the West Bank, authorities discovered the body of a second Palestinian protester killed in clashes a day earlier.

The events are likely to further raise tensions in the region, already heightened this week by the death of a Palestinian prisoner from cancer in an Israeli jail. Late Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel will defend itself against attacks from Gaza.

Read More…
More on Middle East

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Huffington Post

John Kerry To Meet With Netanyahu, Abbas Following Obama Middle East Trip

By The Huffington Post News Editors

AMMAN, Jordan — U.S Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting Israeli and Palestinian leaders to further explore options for relaunching stalled peace talks after President Barack Obama‘s Mideast trip this week.

Following up on Obama‘s visits to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the State Department said Kerry would see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Saturday. After that meeting, Kerry will return to Jerusalem to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Read More…
More on Israel

…read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Huffington Post

Obama’s Israel Speech High Risk, Potential Reward

By The Huffington Post News Editors

JERUSALEM — In a landmark speech to young Israelis this week, the visiting U.S. President Barack Obama delivered an unorthodox appeal couched behind warm words of affinity for their country: Urge your leaders to change their ways and take bold new steps to reach peace with the Palestinians.

The message, potentially risking the ire of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, marked a gamble by the U.S. leader as he searches for ways to restart long-stalled Mideast peace efforts. With no breakthroughs coming out of the visit on the Palestinian front, Obama must now hope that the power of the presidency, combined with the goodwill he accumulated during the 48-hour visit, can persuade a still-skeptical Israeli leadership to abandon some deeply entrenched views and get negotiations moving again.

Read More…
More on Obama Mideast Policy

…read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Huffington Post

Obama Gets Israel to Apologize to Turkey

By Neal Colgrass President Obama today pulled a diplomatic victory out of his 3-day trip to Israel by brokering a detente between Israel and Turkey, Reuters reports. As Obama ended the visit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan and apologized for “mistakes” made during flotilla incident that killed nine… …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Newser – Home

Israel closes Gaza crossing after rocket attack

The Israeli military has closed a Gaza border crossing and restricted Palestinian fishermen in the territory after militants fired rockets into Israel during President Obama‘s visit.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon instructed the army to close the border crossing used to transfer goods and reduce the permitted fishing zone in the seaside territory from six to three miles offshore.

Army official Guy Inbar said Friday that the restrictions will remain in place until Israeli officials decide to lift them.

At least two rockets landed in a southern Israeli town Thursday, causing damage but no injuries.

An al-Qaida-inspired group says it launched the rockets to protest a visit by Obama.

It was the second instance of Gaza rocket fire since a November ceasefire.

…read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Obama closing out Israel visit with symbolic stops

Accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, Obama laid wreaths at the graves of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism who died in 1904 before realizing his dream of a Jewish homeland, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995.

President Obama said Friday he’s “very concerned” that civil war-racked Syria could become a haven for extremists, should President Bashar Assad leave a power vacuum in the chaotic country. 

Obama, during a press conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, reiterated that Assad must, and will, go. But he stressed that it’s critical for the international community to work together to accelerate a viable political transition — one that does not let extremists exploit the power gap. 

“I am very concerned about Syria becoming an enclave for extremists, because extremists thrive in chaos,” Obama said. 

Both Obama and the Jordanian king addressed the mass killing in Syria, with the king indicating he would keep his borders open to the thousands of refugees fleeing the country. 

“Something has been broken in Syria, and it’s not going to be put back together perfectly immediately — even after Assad leaves,” Obama said. “But we can begin the process of moving it in a better direction, and having a cohesive opposition is critical to that.” 

More than 400,000 refugees have crossed into Jordan to escape two years of bloodshed at home, crowding refugee camps and overwhelming aid agencies run by this important U.S. ally in the Middle East. Jordan’s King Abdullah II has also voiced fears that extremists and terrorists could create a regional base in his country. 

Jordan stands as a key ally to the United States in the region, which is why Obama was closing out his trip to the Middle East there. The president spent most of the trip in Israel, marking his first visit to the country as commander-in-chief. 

Obama also sought to bolster Jordan’s efforts to reform its government in an attempt to stave off an Arab Spring-style revolution that has led to the downfall of longtime leaders in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. 

About to wrap up the tour, Obama also said Friday that he still endeavors to bring Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table — after failing to advance the process during his first term. 

“The mistrust is building instead of ebbing,” Obama warned Friday, before saying: “We’ll see if we can make it happen.” 

After Air Force One touched down at Queen Alia International Airport in the capital of Amman, Obama was Friday greeted on the red-carpeted tarmac by U.S. and Jordanian officials before the half-hour drive by motorcade to al-Hummar Palace. There, he and Abdullah reviewed the troops assembled in a courtyard, including some sitting on camels, before they retired inside for meetings. Large U.S. and Jordanian flags flapped in the wind. 

On Saturday, Obama planned several hours of sightseeing, a tour of the fabled ancient city of Petra before the return trip to the White House. 

Before arriving in Jordan, Obama closed a three-day visit to Israel, another important U.S. ally in the region, by paying respects to the nation’s heroes and to victims of the Holocaust. He also solemnly reaffirmed the Jewish state’s right to exist. 

Accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, Obama laid wreaths at the graves of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism who died in 1904 before realizing his dream of a Jewish homeland, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995. 

He also toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, declaring afterward that the memorial illustrates the depravity to which man can sink but also serves as a reminder of the “righteous among the nations who refused to be bystanders.” 

Friday’s stop at Herzl’s grave, together with Thursday’s visit to see the Dead Sea Scrolls, the ancient Hebrew texts, were symbolic stops for Obama that acknowledged that the rationale for Israel’s existence rests with its historical ties to the region and with a vision that predated the Holocaust. Obama was criticized in Israel for his 2009 Cairo speech in which he gave only the example of the Holocaust as reason for justifying Israel’s existence. 

“Here on your ancient land, let it be said for all the world to hear,” Obama said at Yad Vashem, in a clear response to that criticism. “The state of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, but with the survival of a strong Jewish state of Israel, such a holocaust will never happen again.”
Before leaving for Jordan, Obama and Netanyahu met for two hours over lunch. An Israeli official said they discussed Israel’s security challenges and that, in addressing the peace process with Palestinians, Netanyahu stressed the importance of security. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity under diplomatic protocol. 

The two leaders met again in a trailer next to a tent on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv before Obama left the country. 

In between those meetings, Obama squeezed in a stop in Bethlehem in the West Bank to visit the Church of the Nativity. 

Obama had been scheduled to take a helicopter to Bethlehem but had to change plans due to unusually high winds. The route gave Obama a clear look at Israel’s separation barrier with the West Bank, which runs south of Jerusalem and is the subject of weekly protests by Palestinians. 

About 300 Palestinians and international pilgrims gathered near the Nativity Church, awaiting Obama’s arrival. But a knot of protesters along the route held up signs stating: “Gringo, return to your colony” and “US supports Israeli injustice.” 

At a nearby mosque, Mohammed Ayesh, a Muslim religious official in Bethlehem, issued a plea to Obama in a speech to worshippers: “America, where are your values? Where are the human rights? Isn’t it time that you interfere to make it stop?” 

Amid high security, Obama toured the church with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. They stopped at the Grotto of the Nativity, which is said to stand where Jesus Christ was born. About 20 children waving U.S. and Palestinian flags greeted Obama in a courtyard outside the sanctuary. He posed for photographs with Abbas and Bethlehem’s mayor, Vera Baboun. 

Earlier in Jerusalem, Obama and his Israeli hosts arrived at the Herzl grave site under cloudless skies. Obama approached Herzl’s resting place alone and bowed his head in silence. He turned briefly to ask Netanyahu where to place a small stone in the Jewish custom, then laid the stone atop the grave. 

“It is humbling and inspiring to visit and remember the visionary who began the remarkable establishment of the State of Israel,” Obama wrote in the Mt. Herzl guestbook. “May our two countries possess the same vision and will to secure peace and prosperity for future generations.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

…read more 

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox News – Politics

US, Israel concerned about Iran plutonium reactor

While international diplomacy has focused on trying to prevent Iran from using enriched uranium to produce nuclear arms, concern is growing about another rapidly advancing project that could supply plutonium for a nuclear weapon.

Tehran hopes to have a plutonium-producing reactor up and running next year, part of a nuclear program that the Iranians insist is designed to produce electricity and material for medical and scientific research — not for bombs.

Both plutonium and enriched uranium can be used to produce a nuclear explosion. International concern has so far focused more intensely on Iran‘s uranium enrichment path.

That’s because Tehran won’t be able to produce plutonium until next year at the earliest and doesn’t have the means to convert it into bomb material. It is now enriching uranium to a level only a step away from weapons-grade.

Iran denies any interest in atomic arms, and says neither the uranium enrichment nor the plutonium reactor contravenes the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. U.N. Security Council resolutions, however, demand it suspend both programs because the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog organization says Iran isn’t fully honoring commitments meant to allow the agency to monitor its nuclear sites.

The United States and its allies worry about the plutonium reactor at Arak, southwest of Tehran. U.S. envoy Joseph Macmanus told a recent meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency — the U.N. nuclear watchdog — that the reactor is “of increasing concern” as its startup date approaches. Israel, which has taken a lead in criticizing Iran‘s nuclear program, is even more concerned.

During a visit by President Barack Obama this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to push for a U.S. commitment not to let Iran develop nuclear arms. Obama would likely urge Netanyahu — who has warned of possible Israeli military strikes on Iran over the issue — to give negotiations and sanctions more time.

Netanyahu has said Iran will by mid-2013 have amassed enough higher-enriched uranium to relatively quickly make the 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of weapons-grade material needed for one nuclear bomb. The plutonium reactor would take longer to finish. While Iran and Israel say it will be running by next year, Western intelligence services say it might take a year or two beyond that. In addition, Iran would have to build a reprocessing plant to turn plutonium waste from the reactor into warhead material.

…read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Analysis: Israeli settlements at core of conflict

On his short helicopter ride from Jerusalem to the West Bank, President Barack Obama is flying over sprawling Jewish settlements — a reminder of Israel‘s ongoing construction on war-won land in defiance of much of the world and a major hurdle to renewing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Palestinian officials say Mahmoud Abbas‘ main message to Obama, as the two meet Thursday, is that the Palestinian president can’t return to talks on drawing a border between Israel and a future Palestine while Israel unilaterally shapes that line through accelerated settlement expansion.

At the same time, Palestinians doubt Obama is willing to spend the domestic political capital required to pressure Israel to halt construction — something he briefly tried at the beginning of his first term, before backing down when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resisted.

In a joint news conference with Netanyahu late Wednesday, Obama seemed to confirm Palestinian fears that he won’t confront Israel over the settlements.

The U.S. president didn’t mention settlements at all when asked about the lack of progress during his first term toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead he suggested a low-key approach, saying he came to hear from Abbas and Netanyahu and that “it is a hard slog to work through all these issues.”

But with settlements growing steadily, time for a partition deal may be running out, Israeli settlement monitors and European diplomats have warned.

“We are reaching the tipping point,” said settlement watcher and Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer.

“A year from now, if the current trends continue, the two-state solution will not be possible. The map will be so balkanized that it will not be possible to create a credible border between Israel and Palestine,” he said.

Palestinians also argue that after two decades of intermittent negotiations, the contours of an agreement have widely been established and that it’s time for decisions, not endless rounds of diplomacy. They suspect Netanyahu is seeking open-ended negotiations to give him the diplomatic cover for more settlement-building, while being unwilling to make the needed concessions.

Netanyahu has said he is willing to negotiate the terms of a Palestinian state. He reiterated Wednesday, with Obama by his side, that he is ready to return to talks, but also said there should be no “preconditions” — …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News