Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is making a new push to revive peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, describing this as a "year of renewed commitment and increased effort toward what we see as an imperative goal for the region and the world."
Clinton met Friday with visiting foreign ministers from two Arab countries that recognize Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and said there is a sense of urgency.
"There is a hunger for a resolution of this matter, a two-state solution that would rebuke the terrorists and the naysayers, that would give the Palestinians a legitimate state for their own aspirations and would give the Israelis the security they deserve to have," Clinton said after her meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
The Obama administration's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, is preparing for another trip to the region and is expected to bring letters of guarantees on how long negotiations should last and what issues they should cover. Mitchell told The Charlie Rose Show on PBS this week that talks should take no longer than two years and could be finished sooner.
Judeh said his country wants to see clear deadlines and benchmarks. "We've had too much process and not enough peace. What we don't need in the region right now is another open-ended process that leaves issues unresolved and that leaves loose ends without being tied," he said.
The Obama administration hit a rut last year after failing to persuade Israel to halt construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Palestinians said they would not return to talks without a halt.
In November, Israel agreed to a partial and temporary moratorium on construction, but that does not include east Jerusalem, part of the city that Palestinians hope will one day be their capital.
Jordan's foreign minister warned that Jerusalem could be a dangerous flashpoint.
Clinton also raised that concern, but made clear Friday that she would like to see Israelis and Palestinians start their negotiations on the issue of borders.
"Resolving borders resolves settlements. Resolving Jerusalem resolves settlements. So I think we need to lift our sights. And instead of looking down at the trees, we need to look at the forest," she said.
Clinton said the Obama administration wants to meet the Palestinian goal of having a viable independent state based on the borders that existed before the 1967 war — but with agreed upon "land swaps" with Israel, which wants to maintain settlements in the West Bank. She also said the administration must meet the Israeli goal of security within its boundaries.
Before Mitchell travels to the region, he plans to visit Europe to build up international support for a new peace process.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Ali Aboul Gheit added to the sense of urgency.
"We are coming to try to regenerate enough energy and to create enough momentum for a peace effort," he told reporters in Washington. "And it is crucial that we would win and that we would succeed and bring the parties [together] on a proper basis."