Yitzhak Benhorin
January 14, 2011 - 1:00am

As chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's emissary Yitzhak Molcho continue their separate talks in Washington with US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, the Obama administration is looking for new ideas to jumpstart the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The POLITICO website reported Thursday that the Obama administration is seeking new ideas from diplomats and former administration officials familiar with the Mideast conflict and on how to advance the peace process.

According to the report, one task force has been convened by Sandy Berger and Stephen Hadley, former national security advisors to Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively, to offer recommendations on the Middle East peace process to the National Security Council.

Martin Indyk, who served twice as the US ambassador to Israel and is now vice president of foreign policy studies at Brookings Institution, held meetings this week with senior National Security Council Middle East/Iran advisor Dennis Ross, Palestinian negotiator Erekat, Israel’s Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, and others.

Officially, the administration is attempting to maintain "business as usual", stressing that the parties must relaunch direct talks on the core issues. Behind the scenes, however, Washington sources say they are disappointed by the fact that both Israel and the Palestinians are failing to provide specific answers to the American bridging efforts in terms of borders and security.

Former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer told POLITICO that due to the lack of Israeli and Palestinian initiatives, the United States must develop its own initiative as "there is no other option".

Meanwhile, former Middle East Quartet deputy envoy Robert Danin proposed in the Financial Times this week that the absence of a peace process makes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad "vulnerable to being seen as policemen of the Israeli occupation".


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