WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States needs to deploy a high-level envoy, like former President Bill Clinton, to help negotiate a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, a top U.S. politician said on Sunday.
Senator John McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee who lost his 2008 presidential bid to President Barack Obama, said Washington needed to show it was serious about wanting peace in the Middle East and sending someone as senior as Clinton would help.
“The United States of America has got to push as hard as we can to resolve this Israeli-Palestinian issue,” McCain said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “So many events are hinged on making that process go forward.”
“I’d find someone even as high ranking as former President Bill Clinton to go and be the negotiator,” McCain said. “I know he’d hate me for saying, that but we need a person of enormous prestige and influence to have these parties sit down together as an honest broker.”
In 2000 during his second term as president, Bill Clinton made a high-stakes Middle East peace push that ultimately failed. But he is widely perceived to have credibility with both Israelis and Palestinians.
Obama, traveling in Asia, said on Sunday he would prefer not to see an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza but put the onus on Egypt and Turkey to get Hamas to halt cross-border rocket fire.
Obama also warned those in the Middle East who support Palestinian aspirations for statehood that any peace deal would be pushed off “way into the future” if the Gaza conflict escalated.
Like other top U.S. Republicans, McCain said the United States needed to be “as heavily involved as it possibly can” in the latest conflict, which has been escalating in five days of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.
But he said he did not know how much influence the Obama administration would have, following failed efforts in 2009 to help bridge differences between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We have a lot of work to do to regain some credibility because we’re crumbling all over the Middle East,” McCain said.
Reporting by Deborah Charles