President Obama personally met with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, this morning, a White House official tells NPR's Ari Shapiro.
The official called it a "quick check-in," but this is significant because Obama — at least publicly — has largely stayed out of the process, instead letting Secretary of State John Kerry take the lead.
Haaretz reports that Obama called on the negotiators to "exhibit good will and to remain focused and steadfast throughout the talks."
The Israeli newspaper adds:
"The negotiations began at 3 P.M. (8 A.M. Washington time), as U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace, Martin Indyk, met with the negotiating teams at the State Department in Washington. From there the two teams departed for the White House, for their meeting with President Obama.
"Directly after the meeting with Obama, the teams are to continue to their next meeting – with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry – back at the State Department. The meeting is expected to last some 45 minutes. At around 6:00 P.M., the parties will hold a press conference, during which Kerry, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat will make statements.
"The two negotiation teams dined together for roughly two hours at the State Department on Monday night, breaking the Ramadan fast. Prior to the meal, Kerry met separately with each of the sides for roughly 45 minutes apiece."
As we've reported, Kerry made about half a dozen trips to the region in order to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table after years of stalled talks.
"The Israelis and Palestinians have been holding periodic peace talks for the past two decades without achieving any major breakthroughs," Greg Myre wrote for us. "All the toughest issues still remain: the status of Jerusalem, the fate of Jewish settlers in the West Bank, security arrangements and the borders of a future Palestinian state."