President Barack Obama has sent letters to at least seven Arab and Gulf states seeking confidence-building measures toward Israel, which Washington has been pushing to agree to a freeze of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. One former senior U.S. official who was aware of the letters said they had been sent “recently” to seven Arab states, including the leaders of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The letters reinforce “the Mitchell message re: the need for CBMs [confidence-building measures] in exchange for [settlement] freeze and to [get] peace talks restarted,” the former senior official said by e-mail.”These letters were sent some time ago,” a White House official told Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity Sunday, when asked about them. “The President has always said that everyone will have to take steps for peace. This is just the latest instance of this sentiment.”
Each side is now eyeing the other, unwilling to give ground if the other doesn’t. That does seem like an opportunity for a diplomatic advance, though as the weeks roll by, the White House has to be growing increasingly impatient for some measure of progress.