Barack Obama hopes landmark visit to Israel can restart stalled peace process

President announces trip as secret talks between Palestinians and the Israelis can be revealed

Jerusalem

Barack Obama will visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories next month, giving hope of fresh impetus to the moribund peace process.

Meanwhile, The Independent has learnt from Palestinian sources that weekly meetings have been taking place between the top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and his Israeli counterpart, Yitzhak Molcho, suggesting that at least some progress is being made on efforts to reconcile the two parties.

Officially, Palestinian Authority officials have refused to meet Israeli negotiators while Jewish settlements are being built in the West Bank. In December, the Israeli government announced plans to build more settlements in reaction to the Palestinians gaining statehood recognition at the United Nations.

It has been assumed that the two sides were as far apart as ever, and there have been no face-to-face meetings between the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, since late 2010.

Some analysts believe that Mr Obama wants to leave his mark on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, with no election to win in 2016, he is prepared to upset various lobby groups in the United States in order to move the process forward. It is unlikely that the President would be willing to make the effort to visit the region without something tangible to show for his efforts.

Security teams are already in Israel and the West Bank preparing for the visit, Israel's Channel 10 news reported. The visit would be Mr Obama's first to Israel as US President after visiting as a candidate in 2008.

There has been considerable personal tension between Mr Obama and Mr Netanyahu, with both accusing the other of interfering in both countries' recent elections. The US, along with other countries, has openly criticised Mr Netanyahu's administration for continuing to build settlements in the West Bank, which under international law is considered occupied territory.

Mr Netanyahu said that world leaders should declare Hezbollah a "terrorist entity" hours after the Lebanese group was blamed for a bombing in the Burgas Black Sea town last July. "I believe that what is required right now… is to call it like it is," Mr Netanyahu said.

Not long after winning the White House in 2008, Mr Obama brokered a moratorium in West Bank settlement building, seen by the Palestinians then and now as a prerequisite to any face-to-face negotiations. Mr Netanyahu lifted the freeze in late 2010 when little progress was made in talks with the Palestinians. The US is pushing for renewed talks "without preconditions", Channel 10 reported, which is broadly in line with Mr Netanyahu's position.

It was thought that Mr Netanyahu would visit Washington next month, to meet Mr Obama and attend the annual conference of the powerful pro-Israel lobby group Aipac. However, the negotiations he is heading to form Israel's next coalition government are likely to last beyond the start of the conference.

Despite the personal animosity between the two men, there is fresh incentive on both sides to kick-start the peace process.

News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
fashionLidl to launch a new affordable fashion range
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – Up to £43k

£35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

.NET Developer

£650 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer ASP.Net, C#.net, WCF, WPF, .N...

Principal Arboricultural Consultant

£35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Principal Arboricu...

Trainee Digital Forensic Analyst

£17000 - £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Trainee Digital Fo...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment