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Obama plans personal role in Mideast peace bid

WASHINGTON — President Obama, after avoiding a hands-on role in Middle East peacemaking since the setbacks of his first term, plans to plunge back into the effort, his advisers said this week, starting with an urgent appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

When he welcomes Netanyahu to the White House Monday, the officials said, Obama will press him to agree to a framework for a conclusive round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that is being drafted by Secretary of State John Kerry.

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Later in March, Obama is likely to meet with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to make the same pitch. The goal, officials said, is to announce the framework, a kind of road map for further talks, by the end of April, the nine-month deadline that Kerry set last summer for a final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

For Obama, the decision is fraught with risk. He made Middle East diplomacy a centerpiece of his first term, bringing Israelis and Palestinians together at the White House in 2010, only to watch those negotiations collapse three months later. Since his reelection, Obama has left the issue almost entirely to Kerry, who has made nearly a dozen trips to the region.

If the two sides agree to the framework, which would set out general terms on such issues as Israel’s security and the borders of a future Palestinian state, the negotiations could be extended, with a new target of completing a treaty by the end of 2014.

It is far from clear, however, that Obama can pull off what has eluded his secretary of state — and several of his Oval Office predecessors.

Kerry and his special envoy, Martin S. Indyk, have held meetings with Israelis and Palestinians in recent days, but the sides have not met face to face for weeks. That suggests, analysts say, that there has been scant progress on core differences, like the contours of a new Palestinian state. Administration officials said the framework will cover all the major final-status issues.

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