Article first published as US Abandons Efforts to Persuade Israel to Freeze Settlements on Blogcritics.
The United States has decided to abandon its efforts of persuading Israel to freeze its settlement construction, saying the tactic has failed. Palestinians’ leadership in West Bank, Palestinian Authority has been demanding total settlement freeze in order to attend direct talks with Israel under the US mediation. Israel’s self-imposed 10-month settlement freeze expired in November last week due to which the direct talks also ended as Israel refused to extend the freeze on illegal settlement construction in occupied territories for 90 more days as requested by the US.
The US offered a proposal with incentives such as supply of jet fighters and security guarantees in return to a 90-day extension of a previous 10-month settlement freeze. Israel cabinet rejected the proposal. On the other hand, Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu offered to freeze the construction if the Palestinians recognised Israel as a Jewish State, but Palestinian Authority dismissed the idea.
It is not clear what the US is planning. Israel Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the talks with the Americans were postponed because the US was busy dealing with the result of Wikileaks leakage of diplomatic cables. However, this is denied by the US state department spokesperson P J Crowley. The US made clear that abandoning efforts for settlement freeze does not mean giving total efforts. It said it recognised there was a need to change the tactics to resume the peace talks.
BBC News | 8 October 2010 | 21:39 GMT
Arab League foreign ministers have given the US one month to rescue deadlocked Middle East peace talks. At a meeting in Libya, they endorsed a decision by the Palestinian negotiators to stay away unless Israel restored a partial settlement construction freeze. But the ministers said the US had to be given more time to break the impasse.
The direct negotiations, the first in almost two years, resumed in September but later stalled when Israel refused to extend the freeze in the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attended the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in the Libyan city of Sirte.
Afterwards Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, who chaired the meeting, told reporters: "The committee endorses the decision of President Abbas to stop the talks." "It urges the American side to pursue its efforts to prepare adequate grounds and circumstances to resume the peace process and put this peace process back on the right track, including stopping settlements," he added.
The Arab League ministers are now due to meet again in a month’s time to review the situation. The US state department later said: "We appreciate the Arab League’s statement of support for our efforts to create conditions that will allow direct talks to move forward."
Article first published as West Asia Peace Talks are a Game for Netanyahu on Blogcritics.
The much-hyped Middle East peace talks have faced a dead end with all parties standing rigid at their positions without making any move. As the self-imposed partial freeze of settlement building has expired on September 26, the settlement building resumed despite warnings and requests from the US establishment.
Although the peace talks were supposed to be held without preconditions, the president of the Palestinian Authority Mr. Abbas has declared before the talks that Israel must freeze its settlement building for the peace process to be continued. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told before leaving for talks, to the supporters of his Likud party that they had nothing to worry. “You don’t need to worry. Nobody needs to teach me what it is to love Eretz Yisrael,” referring to the idea of an Israel stretching from Mediterranean sea to the Jordan river including the whole of the West Bank. (‘Frontline’ fortnightly’s print edition – October 8, 2010)
Netanyahu’s love for Eretz Yisrael implies his unwillingness to the existence of Palestinians’ West Bank. If it is so, why should he dance to the tune of Mr. Obama? It is not clear whether Obama is in the pocket of Netanyahu or Netanyahu is in the pocket of Obama. However, the doubt appears to be cleared with a leaked video of Mr. Netanyahu.
A video was published on Youtube that shot Benjamin talking to a family, supposedly a victim of terrorist attack, in a West Bank settlement of Ofra. He asked to stop shooting preparing himself to tell something that cannot be
MSN News | PTI | 01/09/2010
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the killing of four Israelis by the Islamist group Hamas in the West Bank, describing it as an attempt to undermine the crucial direct talks between Israel and the Palestine leadership. "This attack must be recognized for what it is: a cynical and blatant attempt to undermine the direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations starting tomorrow," Ban said.
Noting that the attack comes just ahead of the peace talks between Israeli and Palestinians that begin tomorrow in Washington, Ban urged parties not to be sidetracked by the attack. "He (Ban) extends his condolences to the families of the victims and calls for the perpetrators of this crime to be promptly brought to justice," a statement from his office said. "Negotiations are the only way for the parties to resolve all final status issues. The Secretary-General calls upon both sides to show leadership, courage, and responsibility to realize the aspirations of both people," it said. The UN has also called for the perpetrators of the attack to be apprehended and prosecuted. "We condemn this murderous act and call for those responsible to be brought to justice," Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said in a statement issued in Jerusalem.
BBC News | 20 August 2010 | 18:11 GMT
Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resume direct negotiations for the first time in 20 months, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been invited to Washington on 2 September to start the talks. They have agreed to place a one-year time limit on the direct negotiations. But correspondents say prospects of a comprehensive deal are slim, as serious disagreements exist on the core issues. Sensitive areas – including the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied territory, the status of Jerusalem, the borders of a future Palestinian state and the right of return – will be difficult to overcome.
Speaking at the state department, Mrs Clinton said President Barack Obama had been encouraged by the leadership of Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas, and had invited them to Washington to “relaunch direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues, which we believe can be completed within one year”. “President Obama has invited President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan to attend, in view of their critical role in this effort. Their continued leadership and commitment to peace will be essential to our success,” she added. Mr Obama will hold meetings with the four leaders, followed by a dinner with them, on 1 September. Tony Blair, the special representative of the Middle East Quartet – which comprises the US, the UN, the EU and Russia – has also been invited.
A trilateral meeting at the state department between Mrs Clinton, Mr Abbas and Mr Netanyahu will formally relaunch the direct peace talks the following day. “As we move forward, it is important that actions by all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it. There have been difficulties in the past, there will be difficulties ahead. Without a doubt, we will hit more obstacles,” Mrs Clinton said. “But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward even through difficult times and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region,” she added. “These negotiations should take place without preconditions and be characterised by good faith and a commitment to their success, which will bring a better future to all of the people of the region.” Continue reading
Two secular Palestinian organisations joined Hamas on Sunday in calling on President Mahmoud Abbas not to bow to U.S. pressure to resume direct peace talks with Israel, which they described as dangerous. “Insisting on direct talk throws a life line to Israel as its isolation deepens,” Hamas said in a statement issued jointly after a meeting in the Syrian capital with other Palestinian organisations that included Islamic Jihad. “A return to direct talks serves the U.S. and Zionist aim to liquidate the national rights of the Palestinian people,” the statement said. The statement was read by Maher al-Taher, a senior official in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine that does not usually toe the Hamas line.
The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organisation which has long advocated negotiating with Israel and has a minister in the Palestinian Authority, also signed the statement. The DFLP said direct talks cannot resume without international supervision and an end to the Gaza siege. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said the meeting was “exceptional” because it brought together 11 groups that represent what he described as a majority of the Palestinians. The schism between Hamas, which is supported by Syria and Iran, and Abbas’s U.S.-backed Palestinian authority, has weakened the Palestinian cause. Hamas does not rule out peace talks with Israel if they realise what it considers Palestinian rights.
Israeli media reported that Israel has rejected a Palestinian proposal to begin face-to-face peace talks on the basis of a statement by the so called Quartet of Middle East mediators that could set a clear agenda for the negotiations. Abbas has indicated that he could go for face-to-face negotiations,
U.S. envoy George Mitchell resumed his push for direct Middle East peace talks on Tuesday with signs coming from Palestinian leaders that they might bow to pressure and agree to meet the Israelis face-to-face. Mitchell was due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to address questions from both before returning home on Wednesday. The stalled peace process resumed in May after an 18-month hiatus, but only at the level of indirect “proximity talks”, in which Mitchell acts as a shuttling, third-party diplomat. U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants direct talks to resume by September before a partial moratorium on Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank is set to expire, with possibly dire consequences for the process.
Abbas hinted on Monday that he might soon bow to international pressure, end the impasse and resume direct negotiations for the first time in almost two years. Netanyahu has said he is ready to begin immediately. “Until now, we did not agree,” Abbas said. “We may face other pressures that we cannot endure. If that happens, I will study this thing with the leadership … and take the appropriate decision,” he told reporters at his office.
Abbas insists that direct talks tackle all territory Israel has occupied since capturing them in the 1967 Middle East war. He includes Arab East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state and the Jordan Valley, where Israel might insist on continuing to secure the Jordan border with its own forces. Abbas also wants a total halt to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, and an agreed Continue reading
BBC News | 29 July 2010 | 15:25 GMT
The Arab League has endorsed direct Palestinian peace talks with the Israelis, but has left the timing to the Palestinians, officials said. The US has been pushing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to restart the direct talks, suspended since 2008. Mr Abbas has demanded a settlement freeze and a return to 1967 borders as a precondition of direct talks. Correspondents say the move by the Arab League makes it likely the talks will resume in the coming months. The Palestinian president is now expected to return to Ramallah and seek endorsement for the direct talks from a meeting of Palestinian factions, says the BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly stated he wants direct talks to start as soon as possible. In response to the Arab League decision, his office released a statement saying he was "ready to start, already in the next few days, direct and frank talks with the Palestinian Authority".
The Arab League agreed in principle to direct talks with Israel provided the Palestinians saw fit, said Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who chaired a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. "Of course, there is agreement, but agreement over the principles of what will be discussed and the manner of the direct negotiations," he said. But the timing of the direct talks was "a matter for the Palestinian side to decide", he said. Mr Netanyahu has said he is ready to discuss all the core issues of the decades-old conflict, and has accused the Palestinians of avoiding direct talks. Mr Abbas wants Israel to agree to a complete halt in settlement construction and to accept a Palestinian state in territories seized in the 1967 Middle East war – the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Reuters | Sun Jul 18, 2010 | 9:45pm IST
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met Palestinian and Israeli leaders and the U.S. peace envoy on Sunday with a return to direct talks on the agenda, but a breakthrough still seemed distant. Egypt has long played a mediating role in Middle East politics, but it is unusual for Cairo to host different leaders on the same day. Shuttle diplomacy has been the preferred way of operating. None of the visitors saw the others, instead having back-to-back talks with Mubarak, who was flanked by his foreign minister and top intelligence officer. U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who has shuttled between the main players since a four-month window for indirect talks was agreed in May, held an hour-long meeting, then hurriedly left the presidency without briefing reporters. Minutes after Mitchell’s convoy of tinted-window white cars rolled out, a convoy of black cars rolled in, escorting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whom Mitchell met on Saturday in Ramallah. Half an hour later Abbas was gone, again without speaking to reporters. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived soon after Abbas’ departure. The Egyptian state news agency MENA reported that Mubarak’s talks with all three men focused on "efforts to create the conditions necessary to advance the peace process and achieve a two-state solution". It did not elaborate.
BRIDGING THE GAP
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters after the meetings that direct talks were not possible yet, but there was still time. "We are still hopeful that we can bridge this gap. The gap between the needs for security for Israel and the borders for the Palestinians," he said. "They (the Israelis) claim that they are determined to offer the Palestinians a good deal," he said, adding that Egypt was encouraging the United States to keep pushing for face-to-face talks. In a statement after the talks, Netanyahu said: "President Mubarak represents the aspiration for widening the cycle of peace and preserving the stability and security of the peoples of the region. I again found in him a key partner in achieving those important goals."
Reuters | Sat Jul 17, 2010 | 3:14pm IST
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel must agree to the idea of a third party guarding the borders of a future Palestinian state before direct peace talks can begin. In an interview published on Saturday, Abbas said Israel must also agree in principle to an equitable land swap that would compensate the Palestinians for West Bank land absorbed by Jewish settlements in any peace deal. The remarks were the clearest statement yet of what Abbas wants from Israel before he agrees to move to face-to-face negotiations that Washington wants the sides to begin. Abbas met U.S. Middle peace envoy George Mitchell on Saturday in Ramallah. Mitchell, who met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, is mediating indirect peace talks under way for two months. The talks are about halfway through their agreed four-month lifetime. They are set to conclude in September, around the same time as a partial freeze that Netanyahu ordered last November on Israeli settlement building on occupied West Bank territory.
Israel says the current "proximity talks" are wasting time. Netanyahu says he is ready to begin direct talks with Abbas right away. But the Palestinian president is wary of talking to an Israeli leader he believes is not willing to make an offer the Palestinians could accept. Speaking to the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad, Abbas said he wanted Israel to agree "in principle" to the idea that a third party take on a security role in a future Palestinian state to be founded on land occupied by Israel in a 1967 war. "Now what is required from Israel is for it to say that these ideas are, in principle, acceptable," he said. "That means: do they accept that the land is the 1967 borders and that there be, in the Palestinian land, a third party. If they agree to that, this is what we would consider the progress that we want and that would make us go to direct negotiations," he said. The Palestinians aim to establish their state in
AP | Yahoo | 11/07/2010 | 03:18 pm
The Palestinian president, who is under U.S. pressure to resume direct talks with Israel, said that doing so under current circumstances would be pointless. The remarks by Mahmoud Abbas underline his determination not to return to the table unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commits to an internationally mandated settlement freeze and agrees to pick up talks where they left off under the Israeli leader’s predecessor in Dec. 2008. Netanyahu hasn’t agreed to either demand, and has so far curbed but not frozen settlement activity. He insists negotiations should be held without any preconditions. President Barack Obama called Abbas last week, following the U.S. president’s meeting with Netanyahu. The White House said Obama and Abbas talked about ways to revive direct talks soon.
"We have presented our vision and thoughts and said that if progress is made, we will move to direct talks, but that if no progress is made, it (direct negotiations) will be futile," Abbas said in a speech late Saturday. "If they (the Israelis) say `come and let’s start negotiations from zero,’ that is futile and pointless," Abbas added. The Palestinians say they that after 17 years of intermittent talks, they don’t want to start all over again, especially with an Israeli leader who has retreated from positions presented by his predecessors. In the absence of direct talks, a U.S. envoy has been shuttling between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in recent weeks. Abbas’ aide Yasser Abed Rabbo told Palestinian radio Sunday that the Palestinians don’t want to enter open-ended negotiations with Israel. "There must be a … timetable, a framework for these negotiations," he said. "We will not enter new negotiations that could take more than 10 years."