Monday, December 13, 2010

Americans shift back to indirect peace talks

Video of the speech of Hillary Clinton at the Saban Centre on Friday. She arrives at the more interesting points at about 10' into her talk.

The Americans go on as if  not much has changed. After the approach failed to get the Israelis and Palestinians at the table for direct talks, due to Israeli refusal to extend the building freeze in the settlements,  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Friday that Washington would fall back on the indirect approach, whereby the U.S., will have talks with both parties seprartely from each other.  During those talks the United States would push to resolve core issues of the conflict, she said, including borders, security, the  future of Jerusalem, and the issue of the Palestinian refugees.
"Like many of you, I am frustrated that we have not gotten farther, faster," Ms Clinton said in a speech at the Saban Forum, a Middle East policy seminar sponsored by the Brookings Institution think tank.
Stressing that a negotiated solution remained the only way forward, she said the US would resume the role of broker, opening talks with both parties on vital issues. "We will push the parties to lay out their positions on the core issues without delay, in good faith, and with real specificity," she said.
Ms Clinton's speech was the first Middle East policy address after the US on Tuesday announced it had abandoned  its efforts to persuade Israel to halt construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Ms Clinton had talks with Israeli and Palestinian envoys before her speech. Special U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell on Monday went  to the region for talks with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday hailed the U.S. decision to drop efforts to achieve a building freeze in Jewish settlements. "I welcome this American decision. It is good for Israel. It is good for peace," he told an economic forum."To reach peace, we have to discuss the issues that are truly delaying peace ... I welcome the fact that we will now begin discussing these issues and try to narrow gaps," Netanyahu said.

Palestinian officials have voiced concern that Israel would try to undermine any indirect negotiations by avoiding discussion of future borders of a state they intend to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Netanyahu Netanyahu's speech was proof that their concern was not unfounded, as the prime minister cited issues such as his demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, security arrangements and the future of Palestinian refugees.
One day earlier, on Sunday, Netanyahu had as well made it clear that he is against a division of Jerusalem. His office communicated that  that comments by the country's defence minister, Ehud Barak, in favour of dividing Jerusalem between Israelis and Arabs were not the policy of the Israeli government. They represent the long-held views of the defence minister but do not represent the views of the government as a whole," his spokesman said.
Addressing the Saban Center for Middle East policy in Washington on Friday, Barak, a former prime minister from the Israeli Labour Party, had said Jerusalem's Jewish neighbourhoods should remain part of Israel, but Arab sectors should come under the sovereignty of an independent Palestinian state.
The comments were in line with the "Clinton parameters" - proposals for the city's future outlined by Bill Clinton, the former US president, in 2000, after the failure of the Camp David peace summit, which would see Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Palestinian negotiators and analysts said Washington's failure to win a new settlement freeze was a sign of Israeli intransigence and US weakness, and that they held out little hope for the future of negotiations.
Speaking to Al-Hayat newspaper, Yasser Abed Rabbo, an aide to the Palestinian president, said it made no sense to resume so-called proximity talks, and suggested that the Palestinians were considering abandoning negotiations altogether in favor of a unilateral declaration of statehood.
"The old way did not achieve any results and we will not accept a return to it," he said.
"We want to know, will the US side return to the old approach [of proximity talks or direct negotiations], or will they recognize a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital?"

The Elders, agroup of former statesmen and women, founded by Nelson Mandela and including people like Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson and Kofi Annan, gav a declaration unde the title: We need peace in the Middle East, not just process. According to the Elders what is needed is:

  1. Universal human rights and respect for international humanitarian law must apply equally to all.
  2. The occupation must end, and the aim of negotiations should be to define the boundaries of a future Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, including its capital in East Jerusalem. Such an accord could entail, if agreed, a one-to-one land swap to allow for minor adjustments. Initial negotiations should also aim at security arrangements in which both Israelis and Palestinians have confidence.
  3. The remaining final status issues can be addressed more effectively once there is an agreement on borders and security.
  4. Israeli settlements are illegal and all settlement activity must halt throughout the occupied Palestinian territory including in East Jerusalem.
  5. Israel must lift its illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza and stop the demolition and seizure of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
  6. Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza must end all human rights violations against political critics and rivals.
  7. Israel's right to exist must not be denied. Incitement and calls for the destruction of Israel must not be tolerated.
  8. The Arab Peace Initiative must serve as the basis for normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arab world.

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