By JULIE PACE, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The first round of Middle East peace talks in years is underway just a few blocks from the White House, but President Barack Obama is keeping his distance.
Burned by a failed peace effort in his first term, Obama has largely ceded this attempt to forge an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians to Secretary of State John Kerry. The move marks a rare shift in power for an administration that prefers to centralize foreign policy decisions within the White House.
Obama's hands-off approach is in part a vote of confidence in Kerry. It also signals a calculation by the White House that direct presidential intervention is best reserved for the final stages of negotiations or moments of tension when Obama might be used to keep the talks afloat.
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