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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs