[Freemanlist2] Lerner Comentary +Indirect talks will cover core issues -TOVAH LAZAROFF, HILARY LEILA KRIEGER AND KHALED
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[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA:
What does it mean that the indirect talks will cover core issues - this at
the same time that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that the core
issues will be resolved in direct talks?
Possibility A: The indirect talks focus on defining the parameters of the
core issues rather than resolving them. For example, in the case of the
"refugee" issue there would be a discussion of how one defines a "refugee" -
something that in and of itself is hardly a minor issue given that one
normally defines a refugee as someone who himself left a geographical area
as of a certain time and had a certain status in that geographical area at
the time he left. In contrast we have Palestinians claiming that if one of
someone's 8 great grandfathers was present in Mandatory Palestine for any
period of time under any circumstance then the person qualifies as a
refugee. Defining what "Jerusalem" is no less complicated. And there's more
on the list.
Defining the parameters while important, can be pretty monotonous. It can
be boringly technical and thus a challenge for both media coverage and overt
third party pressure.
It would take more than four months to resolve the above definitional issues
even if there was 100% good faith negotiations between the parties.
Possibility B: Some idiot presents a working paper that, instead of
discussing the definition of parameters actually presents Israel's opening
positions. And "idiot" is a generous term. Because once the ball is in
play everybody and his brother will present counter proposals. It doesn't
take a crystal ball to predict this one. Various organizations are already
putting their foreign funding to work in the preparation and promotion of
counter proposals in media events and other actions planned to coincide with
So which will it be?
Will we be smart or stupid?
Indirect talks will cover core issues
By TOVAH LAZAROFF, HILARY LEILA KRIEGER AND KHALED The Jerusalem Post
Arab League endorses process; Mitchell returns early this week.
Israel has agreed to discuss all core issues, including Jerusalem and
refugees, when the proximity talks begin this week, a government official
told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night.
As he spoke, the Arab League met in Cairo and endorsed the talks.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed the Arab League’s support.
Already on Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the
launch of the indirect talks.
She expressed the hope that this would soon lead to direct negotiations,
where the final-status issues dividing the two sides would be worked out.
US special envoy George Mitchell is expected to return to Israel early this
week, possibly on Monday, so that he can mediate the indirect talks.
An Israeli official said, “We are willing to discuss the core issues in the
framework of the proximity talks, but it has to be only a preliminary
discussion of the core issues.”
These issues, which also include borders, a demilitarized Palestinian state
and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, can only be resolved through
direct talks, the official added.
The Palestinian Authority on Saturday briefed Arab League foreign ministers
on the outcome of US efforts to relaunch peace talks with Israel.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas said last week he wanted to engage in indirect
talks but needed the Arab League to support the process.
The meeting was chaired by Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasem
al-Thani and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.
It was attended by representatives of Jordan, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt,
Morocco, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia,
Algeria and Sudan, in addition to the PA and Qatar.
A PA official in Ramallah said that PA negotiator Saeb Erekat presented the
Arab representatives with a detailed report on the results of Mitchell’s
trip to the region last weekend.
The official told the Post that the PA was satisfied with “assurances” it
received from the US administration regarding construction of new homes in
Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.
“I think we should give the US another chance to resume the peace process,”
the official said, adding that Washington has adopted a “positive” approach
toward Palestinian demands. He said that there was no reason now why the
Arab League should not back the PA’s decision to resume the peace talks with
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters Saturday in Shanghai,
China, that the Palestinians' executive committee will meet soon to make a
final decision on resuming talks.
He also confirmed reports that he will visit Washington later this month for
talks with U.S. officials "to push the peace process forward."
The PA halted direct talks with Israel in December 2008, to protest the IDF’s
Operation Cast Lead offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
After Netanyahu took office in March 2009, the PA said it wouldn’t resume
the negotiations until Israel halted all Jewish construction in West Bank
settlements and east Jerusalem.
Israel has said it plans to continue building in east Jerusalem. It did,
however, declare a 10-month moratorium in late November on new housing
starts in the West Bank settlements.
To break the impasse, the PA in March agreed to indirect talks, but called
them off almost immediately when – during a visit by US Vice President Joe
Biden – the Interior Ministry advanced a plan to build 1,600 homes in the
east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.
The PA has since insisted that Israel must halt construction in east
Jerusalem as a precondition for such talks and the West Bank.
On Saturday night Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters that
Israel must halt settlement activity if it wants the talks to proceed.
“If Israel builds one house in the West Bank, Palestinians will immediately
stop the negotiations,” he said.
Netanyahu’s spokesman Nir Hefetz said that the prime minister has said many
times that he wants to renew peaces talks with the Palestinians “any time,
He added, “that this must be done without any pre-conditions as it has for
the last 16 years.”
The prime minister’s position has not changed in this regard, said Hefetz.
The start of proximity talks this week would mark the first time, since late
2008 that any movement has been made in the peace process.
An Israeli government official told the Post that the US was committed to
solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations between the
parties, and not through an international summit or by asking the UN
Security Council to set the borders of a Palestinian state.
“The only way to achieve peace is through direct negotiations between the
two parties, everything else is an illusion,” the official said. “The goal
is preliminary talks that will lead to direct talks.”
It is hoped that once the proximity talks are underway, the Palestinians
will focus their energies on a negotiated solution.
“We have seen in the last few months a Palestinian strategy to avoid
negotiations and to to go places like the UN where they have an automatic
majority and can force concession from Israel without having to make any of
their own, the official said.
“Now that the diplomatic process is starting, we hope we will see an end to
that,” the official continued.
In Washington on Friday, Clinton declined to comment on reports that US
President Barack Obama had sent Abbas a letter extending guarantees on
American positions or on assistance in achieving a Palestinian state within
In advance of the proximity talks, Netanyahu plans to head to Sharm e-Sheikh
on Monday to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
It is Netanyahu’s fourth visit to Egypt since taking office.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu has great respect for President Mubarak and his
political experience. Now that we are restarting the [peace] process, he
wanted to consult with the Egyptian leader as to how we can move this
process forward in a successful way,” an Israeli government official said.
On Thursday, in an appearance before the American Jewish Committee in
Washington, Clinton urged Arab states to do more to help the parties move
toward negotiations and peace.
“We will continue to emphasize the responsibilities of Israelis and
Palestinians, who must ultimately themselves negotiate a two-state solution.
But there are also clear expectations of the Arab states,” she said on
She called on the Arab countries to support Abbas in negotiating with
Israel, in providing assistance with the two-year development plans the PA
is pursuing, and to make gestures of normalization toward Israel. The latter
demand was emphasized last year but in recent months dropped out of focus
until Clinton’s speech last week.
She also stressed the importance of Arab states stopping weapons from
getting into the hands of terrorist groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas.
“Every rocket smuggled into southern Lebanon or Gaza sets back the cause of
peace,” she declared.
Clinton noted that the terrorist organizations are growing in capability,
saying, “They have stockpiled tens of thousands of increasingly
sophisticated rockets in Gaza and southern Lebanon – rockets they aim at
Israeli homes and civilians.”
And she noted Syria’s role in supplying these arms, something she
“[Syrian] President [Bashar] Assad is making decisions that could mean war
or peace for the region,” she warned, before arguing that the dangers in the
region added to the need for a US ambassador in Damascus.
Many critics argue that sending an ambassador would reward Syria and are
calling for the Senate to hold up the confirmation of the administration’s
But Clinton countered, “We know he’s [Assad’s] hearing from Iran, Hizbullah
and Hamas. It is crucial that he also hear directly from us, so that the
potential consequences of his actions are clear. That’s why we are sending
an ambassador back to Syria.”
AP contributed to this report.
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis
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