Biden Visits Israel to Kick-Start Talks
Israeli, Palestinian leaders agree to 'proximity' talks
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2010 1:23 AM CST
Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, arrive iat Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv yesterday.   (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
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(Newser) – Joe Biden has embarked upon a 5-day visit to the Middle East aimed at restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and persuading Israel to rely on sanctions against Iran instead of military action. The vice president will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. But expectations on both sides are low after Israel infuriated Palestinians by approving new construction in the West Bank hours before Biden arrived in Israel yesterday, the BBC notes.

Both sides have agreed to indirect "proximity talks," with American officials carrying proposals from Jerusalem to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank, US special envoy George Mitchell announced yesterday. Biden is the highest-level Obama administration official to visit Israel, but analysts believe his presence may not be enough to boost peace talks. "While we welcome Vice President Biden, we see it as nothing short of an insult that President Obama himself is not coming," said the deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament.