News / Middle East

US Mideast Role Under Scrutiny in Congress

During Biden visit, the Israeli government announced plans for new housing in East Jerusalem, ignoring American calls for a construction freeze

Multimedia

For decades, the United States has tried to act as a bridge between Israelis and Arabs.  President Barack Obama, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, is looking for ways to end hostilities and bring about a long-elusive peace.

This was supposed to be a period of heightened U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East, with U.S. envoy George Mitchell named as a go-between in indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians, and Vice President Joe Biden making a high-profile trip this week to Jerusalem.

"There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel's security," said Biden.

He also visited Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank.

"The United States will always stand with those who take the risk that peace requires," he added.

Biden is the highest-ranking Obama administration official to make such a trip.  But during his visit, the Israeli government announced plans for new housing in East Jerusalem, ignoring American calls for a construction freeze.  Biden was furious.

"...because that decision, in my view, undermined that trust required for productive negotiations," Biden said.  "I, at the request of President Obama, condemned it immediately and unequivocally."

In the streets of Jerusalem, Israelis and Palestinians pondered the U.S. role in the quest for peace.

PALESTINIAN MAN:  "They have proven years ago that they are not relevant.  Because the only thing the Americans care about is Israeli security and not the security of others."
ISRAELI WOMAN:  "If Obama would make an effort to deter all those who are out against Israel, they will respect Israelis and increase the chances of making peace."

In Washington, the U.S. Congress weighed in.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee called in experts to discuss American mediation efforts.  A veteran American diplomat told the panel that it is a heavy responsibility.

"When the United States speaks its views, people listen," said Daniel Kurtzer.

Daniel Kurtzer served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel.  He wants to see more from the Obama administration.

"I have been disappointed this last year with the lack of boldness and the lack of creativity and the lack of strength in our diplomacy with respect to this peace process," he added.

Others point to an increasingly complicated situation in the region.  Robert Malley worked in the Clinton White House and is now with the International Crisis Group, a private policy research firm in Washington.

"I cannot recall a time that was more complex, contradictory, and confusing," said Malley.

But if Israelis and Palestinians agree on anything, it is that the stakes in the peace process are too high for the American government to walk away.

Ziad Asali campaigns in the United States for the Palestinian cause.  He also testified before the Senate committee.

"The United States is the indispensable partner that can bring all parties to negotiations and agreement," he said.

Since the 1970s, American mediation has resulted in big progress in the peace process.  1978 brought the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel.  And in 1993, an Israeli-Palestinian handshake on the White House lawn signaled a pledge for peace.

But today, progress remains elusive.  And the main goal is to get negotiations moving again.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid