Foreign Policy Blogs

Is Obama Giving the Cold Shoulder to Kerry’s Peace Initiative?


[State Department photo/ Public Domain]

[State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Last weekend, Israeli media sources the Times of Israel and Channel 10 reported that United States President Barack Obama did not support  Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace efforts. The Times of Israel article wrote, “Citing unnamed sources close to the negotiations, Channel 10 news said that Kerry sought Obama’s ‘political backing for confrontation primarily with Israel,’ but got the presidential cold-shoulder. It was deemed that now was ‘not the time for such moves’ for the president.”

In response to the Israeli press on Sunday, White House Spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said, “Any notion that Secretary Kerry failed to obtain the President’s backing for his efforts is totally false. President Obama remains fully invested in Secretary Kerry’s tireless work on behalf of peace.”

Besides this latest war of words episode in the media, Obama has remained in the backdrop regarding Kerry’s peace process efforts. Other than Obama’s claim that there is less than a 50 percent chance of the peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians succeeding, he has not been seen or heard from publicly on this issue.

Stephen Hadley, former U.S. National Security Advisor in the Bush administration, participated in a policy forum at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy titled “Israel, America, and a Churning Middle East” on Feb. 4, 2014, to share his remarks after also participating in the Institute for National Security Studies annual conference in Tel Aviv and the Munich Security Conference. There, he said that an American framework agreement is needed to move the peace process forward and that President Obama has to be “all in.”

“While in Munich, Secretary Kerry noted that President Obama has said to Abbas and Netanyahu that if they are all in, then he is all in. Yet the formula should be the other way around: if they are to be all in, the president himself has to be all in.”

News sources  reported on February 10 that plans have been set for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with Obama at the White House on March 3, according to a senior Israeli official involved in preparations for the meeting. The two leaders are expected to go over a framework agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that would allow peace talks to continue through the end of 2014, as well as to discuss the Iran talks aimed at securing a final deal on its nuclear program. Netanyahu will also be delivering a speech at the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. on Mar. 2-4, 2014.

Netanyahu and Obama last met in September 2013, when Netanyahu flew to New York to address the U.N. General Assembly. The relationship between them has been shaky at best, most notably due to disagreements over Iran. However, they must seize the upcoming opportunity to settle their differences and realize that the fate of the Middle East trumps any quarreling between the leadership of their two countries. Just as Netanyahu needs be clear about his positions on any future framework agreement, Obama too must assert his commitment to the American-led initiative or all of Kerry’s hard work will have been for nothing.



Samantha Quint

My name is Samantha, I’m 25, and I made Aliyah in June 2013. I got my BA degree from George Washington University where I studied Jewish Studies and Middle East Studies. During my Junior year, I spent the traditional semester abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since then Israel kept pulling me back, first with a summer professional course on peacemaking in Jerusalem and the West Bank and then a move to Tel Aviv to get my MA in Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv University. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston. I have a unyielding passion for traveling, Boston sports teams, and making the people around me laugh.