Washington: President Barack Obama has hailed the prospect of a new settlement freeze in the disputed West Bank as a promising step toward peace, urging Israelis and Palestinians to get back into serious negotiations quickly.
An upbeat President also pledged to return to the basic principles that drove his thinking when he first came to the White House, including sticking to a more bipartisan tone and better explaining his decisions to the American people. He spoke of moving from an "obsessive focus" on policy and making changes to his approach after a humbling mid-term election.
"The fact that we are out of crisis, although still obviously in a difficult time, I think will give me the capacity," Obama told reporters aboard Air Force One at the end of long Asia trip.
On the Middle East, Washington`s new proposal for reviving peace talks includes a 90-day ban on housing starts in West Bank settlements but not in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians` hoped-for capital. The goal is to give the two sides a three-month period to shape borders of side-by-side states, a daunting, elusive mission.
Obama commended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for making a "very constructive step" toward creating an environment for peace. "I think it`s a signal that he`s serious," Obama said.
US officials said Netanyahu told the administration that he supports the plan and will try to win approval from his Cabinet. Obama said he hopes the Israeli leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will resume negotiations soon.
A previous 10-month moratorium in the West Bank expired on September 26, and talks have stalled, casting doubt about the notion of a peace deal within a year`s time, as Obama has sought. Just a few days ago, during a stop in Indonesia, Obama acknowledged he was worried about the peace process and urged both sides to show more effort.