Indirect talks test for true intentions on Mideast peace

10:19, March 09, 2010      

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by Saud Abu Ramadan, Emad Drimly

After more than one year of a standstill in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the Palestinian leadership decided to accept a U.S.-sponsored peace plan to start a four-month indirect talks between the two sides that ends up with agreeing on resuming direct negotiations.

By making such a decision, which came following a U.S. pressure on the Palestinians, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has abandoned his major condition related to the complete cessation of Jewish settlement in the West Bank for the resumption of talks.

Several Palestinian factions, mainly the Gaza-ruling Islamic Hamas movement, opposed the U.S. plan, which was presented to Abbas by U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell, who is visiting in Israel and Ramallah to hold talks with the two sides.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) executive committee, said earlier on Sunday that "accepting the indirect talks with Israel was approved by the Palestinian leadership, but also there were reservations and opposition of other factions and PLO members."

THE PALESTINIANS' PLAN

The Palestinians want to launch indirect talks with Israel for four months, and if the United States succeeds in convincing Israel to accept an independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, they will ask for direct negotiations within certain timetable to reach agreement.

Abbas Fatah party's spokesman in the West Bank Fayez Abu Eita told Xinhua that if Israel does not accept the Palestinian demands over the establishment of the independent Palestinian state, "Our leadership would get back to the Arab League committee and look for other options."

He revealed that the Fatah party suggested forming a high national committee to follow up the indirect talks with Israel, and the committee would include five members of Fatah central committee as well as other faction members and independent figures "to assess the negotiations."

Abed Rabbo also said "the indirect talks would focus on the borders, security and reaching a deal on the borders of 1967, which will be the basis for the two-state solution vision."

"And also the complete cessation of settlement, mainly in Jerusalem is still our demand in the direct or the indirect talks, " he added.

THE U.S. ROLE

An official in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Xinhua that Abbas handed U.S. envoy Mitchell a drafted document that includes proposals to approximate the form of the talks and questions on what might happen if those talks failed.

The source declined to speak in details about the Palestinian document, but said "it includes the U.S. proposals that Israel carries out essential and important measures on the ground to build confidence.

According to the U.S. proposal to resume the talks, negotiators from the two sides will stay in two separate rooms, while U.S. negotiators led by Mitchell will be holding separate talks with the two sides on the issues of borders and security.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration have been exerting efforts to pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to resume the talks and had a plan of reaching a permanent peace agreement that leads to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within two years.

"During the four months of indirect talks, the Palestinians will not negotiate with the Israeli side; they will be negotiating with the U.S. side," said Abu Eita, adding "If Israel accepts the Palestinian demands, then we will go for direct negotiations upon a certain timetable that we will agree upon."

OBSERVERS' EXPECTATIONS

Palestinian observers expect that the coming four months decided for the indirect talks will be a real test for Israel's intentions over ending the conflict as well as to the policy of the U.S., which supports and sponsors the vision of the two-state solution.

Sameeh Shbeib, a Palestinian political analyst from the West Bank believed that the four-month indirect talks with Israel " would be a golden opportunity for the Palestinians and the Arab states to reach a clear and decisive vision over the peaceful solution with Israel."

"If the U.S. succeeds in this mission, it will be great for the Palestinians, but if the parties fail in reaching an agreement, the entire file of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be taken to the United Nations' Security Council to grab the world's recognition of establishing an independent Palestinian state," he said.

The upcoming four months would put Israel, the U.S. and the international community in a test to show their real intentions, and when the four-month period for the indirect talks expires, all options for ending the conflict will be opened.

Source: Xinhua
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