Obama in warning to Israel on peace deadlock
Published 01/05/2010 | 05:00
President Barack Obama has warned Israel that he will pave the way for an independent Palestinian state if the peace process remains deadlocked until the autumn.
The US president is proposing to hand control of the Middle East peace process to the international community unless there is a breakthrough in the next few months, Israeli officials have said.
Mr Obama has formulated a secret plan with leading European allies to convene an international peace conference by the end of the year, according to Israel's 'Haaretz' newspaper.
The move would fulfil one of Israel's deepest fears by effectively stripping the Jewish state of its power to dictate the course of talks.
The conference would attempt to end decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict by pressing both sides to accept difficult compromises on issues ranging from the future of millions of Palestinian refugees to the status of Jerusalem.
Mr Obama is also eager to gain global recognition for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Officials in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, have voiced their dismay over reports that Mr Obama was planning an effective takeover of negotiations by imposing his own peace deal on the two sides.
Such a step, they said, would undermine indirect peace talks, brokered by the US, that will begin next week.
Mr Obama has strenuously denied considering such an idea, but observers have said it is likely the US president would have developed it as a contingency plan.
Since taking office last year, Mr Obama's efforts to broker a peace deal have faltered badly. Trust between the sides has all but evaporated in a row over Mr Netanyahu's Jewish settlement policy in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which also triggered a noxious row between Israel and the United States.
Although both the Israelis and Palestinians have indicated their willingness to resume talks, suspicions linger and negotiations will not be held face to face.
Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli diplomat close to the Obama administration, said officials in Washington were considering taking matters into their own hands.
"An international conference involving the EU, China and Russia is more of a recipe for chaos than a practical political blueprint," he said.
"But anything is better than the status quo."
Any conference would mark the first time in 17 years of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that the US had handed control of the peace process to the international community.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, confirmed that indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks would begin next week.
She said George Mitchell, the special Middle East envoy, would travel to the region and added that the US ultimately wanted to see direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. (© Daily Telegraph, London)