Barack Obama is close to brokering an Israeli-Palestinian deal that will allow him to announce a resumption of the long-stalled Middle East peace talks before the end of next month, according to US, Israeli, Palestinian and European officials, reports the Guardian.
Key to bringing Israel on board is a promise by the US to adopt a much tougher line with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons programme. The US, along with Britain and France, is planning to push the United Nations security council to expand sanctions to include Iran’s oil and gas industry, a move that could cripple its economy.
In return, the Israeli government will be expected to agree to a partial freeze on the construction of settlements in the Middle East. In the words of one official close to the negotiations: “The message is: Iran is an existential threat to Israel; settlements are not.”
Details of the breakthrough deal will be hammered out tomorrow in London, where the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is due to hold talks with the US special envoy, George Mitchell.
Obama has plans to announce his breakthrough with a meeting of world leaders either in New York or Pittsburgh in early fall.
He plans to make his announcement flanked by Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas – plus the leaders of as many Arab states as he can muster.
Obama hopes that a final peace agreement can be negotiated within two years, a timetable viewed as unrealistic by Middle East analysts.