By CNN Political Unit
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry made explicit the administration's renewed attempts to negotiate a peace deal between Israel and Palestine Saturday as the United States begins to assume a more muscular role in talks.
At the Brookings Institution's annual Saban Forum on Middle East issues and U.S.-Israeli relations, Obama and Kerry each spoke about a budding interim deal that would work towards a two-state solution.FULL STORY
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.FULL STORY
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.FULL STORY
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.FULL STORY
CNN's Elise Labott is along the Syrian-Israeli border where things have been relatively quiet - until now.
By Elise Labott, reporting from Jerusalem
If there is one thing Israelis and Palestinians can agree on, it's that John Kerry doesn't lack enthusiasm.
Arriving in Israel on Thursday on his fourth trip since taking office, the secretary of state seems determined that shuttle diplomacy will be enough to coax Israelis and Palestinians into restarting long-stalled talks.
Kerry has made it clear the Israeli-Palestinian issue will be the centerpiece of his tenure as America's top diplomat and hopes solving it will be his legacy.
He has spent more time on this issue than any other, is in almost daily contact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and speaks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas several times a week.
By Jill Dougherty
Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday he will return to the Middle East later this month to try to push forward on the peace process.
In Rome Wednesday, Kerry met with Israeli Justice Minister Tsipi Livni and Itzhak Moho, Israel's negotiator with the Palestinians.
Conferring at the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Italy, Kerry said he and his partners face a short time timespan. "We understand the imperative to try to have some sense of direction as rapidly as we can," he said.
By Mike Mount
Badly burned after his armored personnel carrier hit a land mine in Vietnam, Hagel sat in a medical evacuation helicopter thinking of the horrors he had experienced during his time in combat there.
Sitting on that helicopter with injuries that would take years to heal, Hagel thought to himself, "If I ever get out, if I ever can influence anything, I will do all I can to prevent war," Hagel would later tell his biographer, Charlyne Berens.
The moment became a seminal one for the young soldier who volunteered to join the Army and ended up serving a year-long tour in 1968 during the Tet Offensive, considered the most violent time of that war.
If former Senator Chuck Hagel gets nominated to be the next Secretary of Defense, it won't be a smooth ride to confirmation.
Getting to the Pentagon will mean overcoming an already vocal opposition from pro-Israel groups and others who object to his stance on Iran and Hamas. One group began running ads on Washington-area television stations on Thursday, even though the administration has not said he is the president's choice.
He faced new opposition late this week from gay rights groups, who were strong supporters of President Obama's election campaigns, for a comment Hagel made in 1998 in which Hagel questioned whether a nominee for ambassadorship was suitable because he was "openly aggressively gay."
Should he be selected to replace Leon Panetta though, he will bring to the Pentagon a distinct bias towards avoiding armed conflict.
By Elise Labott
If, as expected, the United Nations General Assembly votes Thursday to upgrade the Palestinians to non-member observer status, it could put about $500 million in U.S. aid at stake - not to mention the $100 million in monthly tax revenues Israel is threatening to withhold.
The new status would fall short of triggering U.S. legislation that automatically cuts all U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and any programs in the Palestinian territories, as well as aid to any organizations that recognize Palestine as a state. That's because the non-member designation falls short of being a full member state, which would give Palestine full voting rights in the in the U.N. General Assembly. The United States is vehemently opposed to member-state status for the Palestinians that doesn't stem from a peace deal with Israel.
But while Congress isn't mandated to cut U.S. aid, that doesn't mean it won't. Various senators are already proposing language to the National Defense Authorization Act to cut assistance to the Palestinians by 50% and U.S. fees to the United Nations by the same amount, should the effort by the Palestinians to gain recognition as a non-member observer state succeed in the General Assembly. It would also cut by 20% U.S. aid to any country voting to approve such a move. A larger group of senators proposed cutting off all funding if the vote goes through. FULL POST
By Adam Levine
The relentless pace of the Israeli airstrike on Gaza gave the country's military time to make a significant dent in the offensive capability of Hamas, the Israeli military said.
Over the eight day conflict, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) looked to deplete some of the estimated 12,000 rockets Hamas has in its arsenal and destroy tunnels that are said to be used to smuggle weapons.
"We are very satisfied with the achievements that we have had in this operation," Israel Defense Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said on CNN's 'Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.'
The operation was not without human cost. Nearly 150 Palestinian and Israelis, though mostly Palestinians, were killed and many more were injured.
But the IDF said the operation allowed it to accomplish "its pre-determined objectives for Operation Pillar of Defense, and has inflicted severe damage to Hamas and its military capabilities," according to a media release sent soon after the cease-fire took effect on Wednesday.
The military gains were a factor in Israel agreeing to stop the airstrikes, according to the IDF.
"These operational achievements provided the underlying framework for this evening's cease-fire agreement," the IDF release said.