September 2nd, 2013
07:50 PM ET

As it builds coalition on Syria, U.S faces skeptical allies

By Elise Labott
CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter

An Israeli web site only has one question: Has the attack happened yet? The one-word answer: No. The joke in Israel is that everyone keeps turning to the site, which has more than 17,000 likes on Facebook, to see if the answer has changed to "yes."

An Israeli dental clinic has also gotten into the game with a full-page ad for dental implants. Under a picture of President Obama, the question: "Got teeth?"

As it tries to build international support for action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for its alleged chemical attack, the Obama administration must confront an increasing lack of confidence among its allies. While billed as an effort to strengthen U.S. resolve, diplomats say President Barack Obama's decision to seek authorization from Congress is playing out as weakness in a region concerned that Obama would show similar indecisiveness if faced with a nuclear Iran.

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Kerry 'feels the clock ticking' on Mideast peace agreement
July 30th, 2013
07:15 PM ET

Kerry 'feels the clock ticking' on Mideast peace agreement

By Jill Dougherty

As Secretary of State John Kerry embraced Israeli Justice Minister Tsipi Livini and warmly shook hands with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat at the State Department on Tuesday there was a deja-vu moment.

A flashback to September 1993 when President Bill Clinton embraced Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat on the South Lawn of the White House.

This is just the beginning of a revived peace process that could easily crumble, as Clinton’s Oslo accords did and Kerry admitted: “I know the path is difficult. There is no shortage of passionate skeptics.”

The secretary of state, however, did succeed in getting two representatives together at the State Department to work out details of where this new push for peace is headed.
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Israel, Palestinians launch sustained peace talks
July 30th, 2013
03:51 PM ET

Israel, Palestinians launch sustained peace talks

By Tom Cohen

Secretary of State John Kerry got the money shot he wanted on Tuesday - the chief negotiators for Israel and the Palestinians framed by his lanky embrace as they shook hands to launch "sustained, continuous and substantive" talks on a long-sought Middle East peace treaty.

Now the question is whether the negotiations expected to last nine months will bring an even more historic image, with President Barack Obama bringing together Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to sign a final-status agreement that creates a sovereign Palestinian state in what is now part of Israel.

The Middle East dispute, perhaps the world's most intractable in the past six decades, entered a new phase with Kerry's announcement that the first direct talks in three years would proceed in earnest in the next two weeks in either Israel or the Palestinian territories.

Flanked by Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, Kerry said "all core issues" toward achieving a two-state solution would be on the table.

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Filed under: Israel • Middle East • Palestine
July 29th, 2013
01:38 PM ET

A flicker of hope as Israeli-Palestinian peace talks set for Monday

By Michael Schwartz and Ashley Fantz from Jerusalem

For the first time in three years, Israelis and Palestinians will come to the negotiating table in Washington on Monday night.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated praise for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday morning.

The talks will be "a difficult process," but he added that the consequences of not trying could be worse. Kerry said the goal is to seek "reasonable compromises" on "tough, complicated, emotional" and symbolic issues, then he announced former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, as U.S. envoy to the talks.

Indyk understands that peace will not come easily, but that "there is now a path forward, and we must follow that path with urgency," Kerry added.

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Kerry: Israelis and Palestinians to return to talks
Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Friday.
July 19th, 2013
03:01 PM ET

Kerry: Israelis and Palestinians to return to talks

The long-dormant Middle East peace efforts got new life on Friday.

An agreement has been reached that "establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between" Palestinians and Israel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Amman, Jordan.

"This is a significant and welcome step forward," Kerry said.

This came as Kerry visited the Middle East this week and came up with a formula for reanimating peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian territories, a source close to the talks said.

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Filed under: Diplomacy • Israel • Palestine • Sec. State John Kerry
Power: UN response on Syria a "disgrace"
Samantha Power testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
July 17th, 2013
02:57 PM ET

Power: UN response on Syria a "disgrace"

By Jamie Crawford

The United Nations response to the ongoing carnage in Syria has been a "disgrace," Samantha Power, President Barack Obama's nominee as U.N. ambassador, said on Wednesday.

"We see the failure of the U.N. Security Council to respond to the slaughter in Syria – a disgrace that history will judge harshly," the former National Security Council staffer said at her confirmation hearing.

The Security Council, of which the United States is a member, has been stymied by Russian and Chinese vetoes for more robust action in Syria.

A former academic on the issue of genocide, Power said it was incumbent on the United States to continue working with the Russians to try to stop one of the "worst cases of mass brutality" she has seen.
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Filed under: Israel • Syria • United Nations
July 12th, 2013
05:05 PM ET

Israel believed behind recent Syria strike

By Barbara Starr

A series of explosions on July 5 at a critical Syrian port was the result of airstrikes by Israeli warplanes, according to multiple U.S. officials.

Regional media widely reported the predawn explosions at Latakia, but no one had officially claimed responsibility.

Three U.S. officials told CNN the target of the airstrikes were Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles that Israel believes posed a threat to its naval forces.

The officials declined to be named because of the sensitive nature of the information.

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Source: Justice Dept. investigates former vice chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff
June 27th, 2013
10:11 PM ET

Source: Justice Dept. investigates former vice chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff

By Barbara Starr

The former vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff is under investigation by the Justice Department regarding material in a book by David Sanger, a correspondent for The New York Times, a source directly familiar with the situation said Thursday.

The source could not confirm that the investigation involving Retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright is specifically about the Stuxnet computer virus, which Sanger writes about in his 2013 book "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power."

NBC News reported Thursday, citing legal sources, that Cartwright has been told he's under investigation for allegedly leaking classified information about Stuxnet, a complex virus that infected computers in Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010.

That leak was one of a series of national security-related leaks last year and had details of how the United States and Israel were behind the Stuxnet attack.

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June 7th, 2013
06:41 PM ET

Civil war draws closer to Golan Heights

CNN's Elise Labott is along the Syrian-Israeli border where things have been relatively quiet - until now.

May 29th, 2013
06:31 PM ET

Israel braces for the worst

As Israel finds itself drawn into the Syrian conflict, CNN's Elise Labott examines efforts to prepare for a possible confrontation.  Labott, CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter, is based in Washington but currently reporting from Jerusalem.

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