Palestinian-Israeli direct negotiations to go ahead in predicament

15:15, September 16, 2010      

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The second round of Palestinian-Israeli direct talks seem to show certain signs of momentum as leaders of the two sides discussed on core issues Wednesday afternoon for the second day after their meeting Tuesday. The Palestinian and Israeli leaders and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held bilateral and trilateral talks separately, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met alone in Jerusalem Wednesday evening.

Hillary Clinton first met with Israeli President Shimon Peres earlier Wednesday. She indicated in her conversation with President Perez that the peace talks between Netanyahu and Abbas held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on Sept. 14-15 had touched substantial matters to the concern of both sides and that their talks in Jerusalem will continue this momentum.

The core issues have to be settled via face-to-face bilateral negotiations, and they have already started the beneficial attempt, Hillary said. In addition, she also appealed for seizing the current rare opportunity for the peace talks in an effort to advance as far as possible to remove or overcome the barriers that affect the negotiation process.

Meanwhile, Israeli President Peres in his speech urged both Israel and Palestine to take more positive, resolute and pragmatic moves and to impel the peace talks to move further ahead. Peres cited the progress so far made during the Israeli-Palestinian direct negotiations as having already exceeded the prediction of numerous skeptics and opponents and he hoped that the tendency should continue to be maintained.

The talks held Wednesday afternoon basically kept the same procedure as the negotiations of the preceding day in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. Netanyahu, Abbas, Hillary Clinton, and American officials including the U.S., Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell, participated in the trilateral meeting that day.

Nevertheless, an official from the Israeli side indicated that the spanning of direct negotiations to tide over the turbulent stage to the very end of this month is the key point all parties at the meeting would explore during the current round of negotiations, as a 10-month Israeli moratorium on new housing in settlement building on the occupied West Bank is due to end on September 30.

With a partial freeze on Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank due to expire on Sept. 26, Prime Minister Netanyahu once said that "no peace arrangement can survive unless it is anchored on real security arrangements". In order to continue the direct negotiations that had just begun, he said however that he would find a "historic compromise", whereas President Abbas adhered to the Palestinians' consistent stance, and said that if Israel resumes its Jewish settlement construction, the Palestinian side would pull out of the direct negotiations.

Direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians have resumed with pledges of support from both sides for a peace process leading a comprehensive settlement in a year.

Meanwhile, since the start of Palestinian-Israeli direct negotiations in early September, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (or Hamas) declared a public stance in opposition to the direct negotiations. Hamas launched attacks to direct at Israeli personnel and facilities occasionally, and each time Israeli military retaliated against it through its military actions. Hence, some Middle East critics acknowledged a wide gap between the present security situation and the expectations of Israelis and, therefore, they deem that the Israeli side will exert pressure on Palestinians in the current round of security talks.

Even when Hillary Clinton Wednesday assured that both Netanyahu and Abbas "means business" in a joint press conference with Israeli President Shimon Pres, a barrage of 10 rockets and mortars fired by Hamas beginning the morning hours, hit southern Israeli communities that border the Gaza Strip. At least 12 projectiles were fired at Israeli communities since Tuesday, the highest daily total in more than one year.

Moreover, despite apparent disparities on such core issues with regard to the Palestinian-Israeli boundary division, the settlement for Palestinian refugees, Jerusalem's final status and the assignment of water resource, U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell seemed optimistic in face of Palestinian threats to quit the new talks if the settlement building resumes.

Mitchell suggested to the outside during a press conference that he holds a cautiously optimistic attitude for the substantial progress to make in a year during the talks between President Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas.

"President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu continue to agree that these negotiations, whose goal is to resolve all core issues, can be completed in one year," Mitchell told reporters, adding that Israeli and Palestinian teams will meet again "in the coming days" ahead of further talks at the leadership level.

By People's Daily Online and its author is PD resident reporter in Egypt Li Xiao


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