TEL AVIV – President Obama’s planned visit to Israel as soon as next month has already secured Israeli and Palestinian pledges to restart so-called land-for-peace talks, according to informed Palestinian and Israeli officials speaking to WND.
The officials disclosed the Obama administration told both sides the talks would be aimed at creating a Palestinian state in what is known as the 1967 borders, meaning an Israeli retreat from some of the strategic West Bank and possibly some eastern section of Jerusalem.
According to the informed officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed that once the talks begin there will be a silent, undeclared freeze on all Jewish construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem with the exception of what are known as main blocs – Maale Adumin, Ariel and Gush Etzion.
The officials said the White House was adamant that Israeli talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas begin regardless of the position of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
Still, the U.S. is supporting Qatar, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey in back door efforts to broker a national unity deal between Abbas and Hamas during the same time period that the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are set to take place, the officials said.
There is already close coordination between the White House and likely incoming members of Netanyahu’s government coalition who are known to be sympathetic to creating a Palestinian state, primarily former opposition leader Tzipi Livni.
Further, WND was told that Livni and former Minister Haim Ramon are currently coordinating the renewal of talks with the PA’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat.
Regarding Jerusalem, the informed Israeli and Palestinian officials said the White House has been nonspecific other than to champion talks based on what is known as the Clinton parameters.
The formula, pushed by Bill Clinton during the Camp David talks in 2000, called for Jewish areas of Jerusalem to remain Israeli while the Palestinians get sovereignty over neighborhoods that are largely Arab.
WND previously reported Palestinians are building illegally in Jewish-owned areas of Jerusalem, changing facts on the ground that result in Arab majorities on certain neighborhoods.
The informed officials, meanwhile, said the White House expects the issue of Jerusalem to be a key impediment in reaching a deal and is therefore discussing the formation of an international committee to help smooth the process.
Previous Israeli-Palestinian talks saw the U.S. naming an envoy meant to broker between the two sides. According to the officials speaking to WND, the White House has expressed interest in naming an envoy but has doubts about whether such a point man will be successful.
The officials said the PA is pushing for a U.S. envoy while Netanyahu’s government is indifferent to the idea.
As a way to entice the PA back to the bargaining table, the White House agreed to release some $200 million in aid that it has withheld for months, said the officials. According to the officials, the deal with brokered with the Palestinians by incoming Secretary of State John Kerry.
This will be Obama’s first visit to Israel as president. In a cabinet meeting this past Sunday, Netanyahu said he and Obama have agreed to three main topics to be addressed during the visit: Iran’s nuclear program, the insurgency in Syria and the future of talk with the Palestinians.