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

TEXT SIZE - +

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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest 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.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid