Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Obama Delicately Wades into Mideast Talks

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Obama Delicately Wades into Mideast Talks

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -

President Barack Obama today delicately waded into the first round of Middle East peace talks in years, meeting privately at the White House with lead negotiators for the Israeli and Palestinian delegations.

Even still, the White House strategy remained for Mr. Obama to take a mostly hands-off approach to the actual negotiations.

The strategy is in part a vote of confidence in Secretary of State John Kerry, who has embraced the vexing and emotional issue with gusto since joining the administration earlier this year. It also signals a calculation by the White House that direct presidential intervention is best reserved for the final stages of negotiations - if the process ever reaches that point - or moments of tension when Mr. Obama might be called upon to keep the talks afloat.

Aaron David Miller, a longtime Middle East peace adviser to Democratic and Republican presidents, backed the White House's approach.

"You don't want to waste presidential capital," said Mr. Miller, now vice president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center. "But in the end, Obama is going to have to own this if it's going to succeed."

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators arrived in Washington on Monday to open the talks, the first major effort since negotiations broke down in 2008. An attempt to reopen talks in 2010 collapsed almost immediately. The new round, taking place at the State Department, continued today, with the goal of working out plans for how the talks should proceed in the coming months.

Officials said the parties have agreed to negotiate for at least nine months.

In a written statement Monday, Mr. Obama said the talks marked a "promising step forward," but warned that "hard work and hard choices remain ahead."

Like Mr. Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are not directly involved in this first round. …

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