President Obama and Israeli PM Netanyahu Optimistic About Peace Process

And in Silwan, an East Jerusalem neighborhood threatened with a new Jewish "archaeological park" requiring the demolition of dozens of homes, Jeff Halper, a U.S.-Israeli peace campaigner, said, "We're really playing with fire here and it's undermining everything, and all of the Obama administration's efforts to try and bring some stability and even some reconciliation."

Allies said "Bibi" -- as Netanyahu is known in Israel -- likely proposed a new road map toward peace.

Specifically, Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, a close Netanyahu ally, said he would call for a joint U.S.-Israel collaboration on an alternative Mideast peace policy, "which will replace previous initiatives such as the Arab initiative and the diplomatic dialogue conducted by the previous government."

Today, Netanyahu said it would be important to get other Arab states involved in a peace process.

"There's not a policy linkage between pursuing simultaneously peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, and trying to deal with removing the threat of a nuclear Iran," Netanyahu said today. "There are causal links."

Obama recently met with Jordan's King Abdullah to discuss an "Arab Peace Initiative" to get states involved in a possible peace process. "My hope would be that over the next several months, that you start seeing gestures of good faith on all sides," Obama said in the April meeting. "I don't want to get into the details of what those gestures might be, but I think that the parties in the region probably have a pretty good recognition of what intermediate steps could be taken as confidence-building measures."

King Abdullah told AFP that Obama will soon unveil a new plan for Arab-Israeli peace negotiations.

"We expect an announcement from the U.S. administration," Abdullah said, "of its plan to restart negotiations to achieve a comprehensive solution."

Abdullah said "a resolution to the conflict is an American strategic interest. And we hope that it will announce this plan as soon as possible, because lost time undermines the chances for peace. There is a tremendous need to move quickly, seriously and effectively."

And the king warned that "the possibilities of a new round of violence, a new war, will increase and the region and the world will pay the price," if peace talks are further delayed.

The Issue of Iran

While there was little public discussion following the meeting about whether Netanyahu committed to Obama to alerting the United States before attacking Iran's nuclear facilities, the country was certainly on top of the agenda.

In excerpts from a forthcoming Newsweek interview, the president says he gets the point. "I don't think it's my place to determine for the Israelis what their security needs are."

Regarding Iran's effort to go nuclear, he said, "We will do everything to make sure this doesn't happen.

"I understand very clearly that Israel considers Iran an existential threat, and given some of the statements that have been made by President Ahmadinejad, you can understand why. So their calculation of costs and benefits are going to be more acute. They're right there in range and I don't think it's my place to determine for the Israelis what their security needs are."

Still, Obama said "we are going to reach out" to Iran "and try to shift off of a pattern over the last 30 years that hasn't produced results in the region."

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