WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama is "seriously considering" proposing a US peace plan for the Middle East in the fall, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, quoting two senior sources in the American administration.
If this indeed happens, it will be a change from the present approach, which tries to wring concessions from both sides in order to reach "proximity talks", which in turn will lead to direct negotiations. The chances of a new plan being formulated have increased especially in the light of the crisis over building in east Jerusalem, and US understanding that gradual steps are leading nowhere.
The US proposal will be based on former President Bill Clinton's plan, presented at Camp David in the year 2000, with some amendments as necessary to take into account recent changes.
"Everyone knows the basic outlines of a peace deal," said one of the senior officials, while the other added that "90 percent of the map would look the same."
According to the Washington Post report, the fact that Obama was considering a peace plan was revealed during a meeting in the White House on March 24, convened by National Security Advisor Jim Jones with six former national security advisors – a forum that meets once every few months at Jones' request.
'We must do something'
The last meeting was attended by Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to Jimmy Carter, Colin Powell, who served under Ronald Reagan, Brent Scowcroft, who advised both Gerald Ford and George Bush Sr., Sandy Berger, national security advisor to Bill Clinton, and two senior advisors from the Reagan years, Frank Carlucci and Robert C. McFarlane.
During the meeting, Obama entered the room and asked to hear what the advisors thought about proposing a US peace plan.
Scowcroft, who spoke first, urged the president to present a plan based on past agreements. Brzezinski expressed his support for the idea and described a number of strategic parameters for such a plan. Berger and Powell both expressed their support too.
The timing of presenting a plan in the fall is linked to a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. While Israel is against any imposed solution, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government is trying to separate the issue of Iran from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Obama administration believes that progress in the peace process will facilitate a solution to the Iran threat.
"It's not either Iran or the Middle East peace process," one of the sources said. "You have to do both." He said the Americans want to remove the controversy over settlements in east Jerusalem and find a regional solution between Israel and the Arab states.
"As a global power with global responsibilities, we have to do something," another senior source said. The plan, he added, would "take on the absolute requirements of Israeli security and the requirements of Palestinian sovereignty in a way that makes sense."