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No peace initiative on Obama Israel trip

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

President Barack Obama does not plan to use his coming trip to Israel to advance new proposals to break open the deadlock in peace talks with the Palestinians, the White House said Wednesday.

Obama will visit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time as president as soon as next month on a trip that also includes stops in the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

With the visits likely to focus heavily on Iran's nuclear challenge and the civil war threatening to tear Syria apart, White House spokesman Jay Carney played down speculation that new peace initiatives could also feature.

"Any time the president and prime minister have a discussion and certainly any time the president has a discussion with leaders of the Palestinian Authority, those issues are raised," he said.

"But that is not the purpose of this visit."

The White House is styling the trip as a chance for Obama and Netanyahu to take stock at the beginning of their respective new administrations, following the US election in November and Israeli polls last month.

But hopes for a breakthrough in peace talks seem slim, with Israel more focused on immediate perceived threats from Iran and Syria's torment, and the Palestinians divided and dismayed over the stance of Netanyahu's government.

Obama began his first term in 2009 with a new peace initiative but his effort foundered over Israeli resistance to halting settlement construction on land Palestinians see as part of their future state.

The US president also clashed with Netanyahu on the issue, and the two leaders have also been at odds over the imminence of the threat from Iran's nuclear program, though both agree Tehran should not get the bomb.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130206/no-peace-initiative-obama-israel-trip