What’s in that Obama Middle East peace plan? And will he talk to Israelis?


In anticipation of Wednesday’s meeting between U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Laura Rozen at ForeignPolicy.com has some speculation from Middle East experts about the terms of an Israeli settlement freeze and the Middle East peace plan that President Obama is rumored to be rolling out next month:

Aaron David Miller, a veteran Middle East peace negotiator for six secretaries of state, said Sunday that the Obama administration is planning to produce, "in late September or October," either a conference or an announcement of a plan for a peace process — Madrid Plus, as he called it — involving at least three components:

1. A relaunch of Israel-Syrian and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, as well as a track for resuming formal multilateral relations between Israel and other Arab states

2. An agreement with the Netanyahu government on a settlement freeze that goes further than any other Israeli government has ever gone, and one that would "grandfather in a large number of discreet units and quiet understandings on Jerusalem"

3. The resumption by Arab states — with or without the Saudis, but including the Bahrainis, other Gulf states, Tunisians, and Moroccans — of liaison offices or interest sections with Israel.

"And they are going to wrap the whole thing in an event — a conference or an announcement," Miller, now with the Woodrow Wilson Center, said.

Rozen also reports that the president is so far resisting making a specific public outreach to Israelis:

Sources have said the Obama administration has considered suggestions that the president for instance give an interview to an Israeli journalist, but has thus far decided against it, for reasons that are not clear. Obama has given four interviews to various Arab media outlets, Middle East hands estimated, including his first interview upon taking office with Hisham Melham of satellite channel Al Arabiya.

[Middle East expert Steven P.] Cohen says his suggestion for a strategic communications outreach to wider publics goes far beyond a single interview. "I don’t think an interview is the way for Obama to deal with the Israelis," said Cohen, who was among those who consulted the White House on Obama’s June Cairo speech to the Muslim world. "Obama should speak publicly — and he is a great speaker — to the Jews of the world the way he did to the Muslims of the world," he said. Perhaps a speech around the time of Jewish New Year holidays September 18 — a couple days before the UN General Assembly session is scheduled to open. 

Recommended from JTA