The White House is working on a plan to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process which has been frozen for almost two years, the Wall Street Journal reported prior to US Vice President Joe Biden's anticipated arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday afternoon for a two-day visit.
Last week, White House officials told reporters not to expect a break-through in the peace process during Biden’s visit. Similarly in November, the White House said that US President Barack Obama did not expect to arrive at a two-state solution before leaving office in January 2017.
In the absence of any US led initiative, France has since made a push for a multi-lateral regional summit and has spoken of a resolution before the United Nations Security Council to set the contours of a new peace process.
According to the Wall Street Journal
, the White House is considering changing its long standing opposition to using the UNSC as a vehicle to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, preferring instead for the two parties to resolve their issues through direct talks.
Israel has similarly insisted that negotiations are the only way to arrive at a two-state solution. It has argued that the Palestinians will never sit down and negotiate as long as they believe they can achieve their goals through the United Nations.
The Wall Street Journal
speculated that Obama could launch an initiative through a presidential speech, possibly in the fall at the annual opening of the UN General Assembly in New York.
A US proposal, according to the Wall Street Journal
, would be based on the pre-1967 lines with land swaps to allow Israel to retain a small portion of territory over the Green Line in exchange for giving Palestinians land within the Green Line.
The paper also theorized that the US could renew its push for Israel to freeze West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.
Netanyahu has rejected all such demands in the past.
Similarly, according to the The Wall Street Journal
, the US would ask the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and “end claims on a right of return for Palestinian refugees." The Palestinians have similarly in the past refused to accept any such proposals.
The report of a renewed White House push to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict comes as the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Netanyahu was not traveling to Washington at the end of the month and would therefore, not be able to meet with Obama.
The White House is claiming that they agreed to a meeting at Netanyahu’s request and learned of its cancellation through the media.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that through its ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, it had already informed the White House on Friday that Netanyahu might decide not to go. Dermer explained that a final decision on the matter would likely be taken on Monday.
White House officials said Obama had already penciled in a meeting with Netanyahu on March 18. They expressed disappointment in his decision to cancel the meeting, and referred The Jerusalem Post
to the government of Israel for an explanation of the schedule change.
"Last Friday, during a meeting at the White House, Ambassador Dermer expressed the prime minister's appreciation for the president's willingness to meet the PM if he came to Washington to attend AIPAC's Policy Conference," the prime minister's office said on Monday night. "However, the ambassador also informed the White House that there is a good chance that the prime minister would not be coming to Washington and that a final decision would be taken on Monday after he had met with the prime minister."
Dermer also informed a senior AIPAC official last week that Netanyahu's trip was unlikely, the statement reads.
"On Monday, news reports suggested that [Netanyahu] would not be traveling to Washington and erroneously stated that the President was unwilling to meet with [him]," it continued. "The [prime minister's office] immediately corrected the erroneous news reports and officially informed the administration that the PM would not be coming to Washington."
Netanyahu looks forward to meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden, who is currently traveling the region, the statement added.
Officials in the PMO blamed the cancellation on the pending US elections.
Netanyahu’s itinerary had included a public address to AIPAC, where a number of the candidates were likely to also be speaking, the officials said. They added that Netanyahu feared that any contact with them, could be seen as interference in the elections.
Michael Wilner and Reuters contributed to this report.