US Secretary of State John Kerry met Friday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as he seeks to force the US's agenda for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to AFP.
The two men held closed talks on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss mountain town of Davos, ahead of what Washington has billed as a major address by Kerry on the Middle East to the gathering later in the day.
Amid turbulence and upheaval across many Arab countries, including the war in Syria, the US administration's foreign policy in the region has been heavily criticised at home and by key Gulf allies for lacking focus.
But Kerry was expected to hit back at the accusations to "talk about our commitment to engagement in every region of the world and our commitment to diplomacy as a first resort," a senior State Department official said.
"He will make the argument that the myth of disengagement - and particularly the notion that the US is pulling back from the Middle East -- is not only false, but flies in the face of several major diplomatic initiatives in the region."
Asking not to be named, the official pointed to the interim deal with Iran to rein in its nuclear weapons program and an agreement to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.
The US has also been a prime mover behind efforts to bring together the Syrian opposition and the regime to end the three-year war in ongoing talks in Geneva.
Kerry's talks with Netanyahu on Friday were expected to "be pretty lengthy," a US official said, after he met earlier in the week with Israel's top negotiator Tzipi Livni. The PA negotiating team is expected in Washington next week.
The US-brokered peace talks that began in July, after a three-year hiatus in direct negotiations, have faltered over seemingly irreconcilable demands from both sides, failing to bring any glimpse of a final agreement that would end decades of conflict.
Kerry, who has made 11 trips to Israel and the PA in his first year in office, is trying to hammer out a framework deal to chart the talks going forward, which would set down guidelines on the toughest issues such as the contours of a future Palestinian state and the fate of Jerusalem for the months ahead.
The two sides have agreed to stay at the negotiating table for nine months, until some time in late April. But with the deadline looming, there has been mounting criticism by both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs as Kerry has pushed them to accept tough compromises.
Kerry's push comes just hours after a report surfaced claiming that Kerry, as well as US President Barack Obama, have expressed "disappointment" in Jewish criticism over their policies on Israel, which analysts and Israeli officials have repeatedly noted place Israel at strategic risk. The report claims that both officials see a "Jewish lobby" in Congress; if true, both officials would be guilty of adhering to a myth which has deep anti-Semitic roots.