(Washington, D.C.) — UPDATED: The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are underway. A preliminary meeting was held Monday evening at Secretary John Kerry’s home. Formal discussions occurred Tuesday evening at the State Department. The next round of talks are likely to be held in mid-August in Jerusalem and/or Ramallah.
For me, the most interesting development so far is the news that Kerry is pushing for a comprehensive final peace treaty between the two sides within nine months.
“The parties have agreed here today that all of the final status issues, all of the core issues, and all other issues are all on the table for negotiation,” said Kerry at a press conference. “And they are on the table with one simple goal: a view to ending the conflict, ending the claims. Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months. The parties also agreed that the two sides will keep the content of the negotiations confidential. The only
announcement you will hear about meetings is the one that I just made. And I will be the only one, by agreement, authorized to comment publicly on the talks, in consultation, obviously, with the parties. That means that no one should
consider any reports, articles, or other — or even rumors — reliable, unless they come directly from me, and I guarantee you they won’t.”
“The American government had written letters of assurance to the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams, in order to make the renewal of talks possible,” Haaretz reported. “The letters reinforced the American positions regarding the 1967 borders, Palestinian refugees, and Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. The text of the letters remains classified and will not be published. A senior White House official present during the briefing said that the general atmosphere of the talks that were held in Washington on Monday and Tuesday was ‘excellent,’ despite the disagreements that remain between Israel and the Palestinians.”
“Fears of fierce battle within the United Nations General Assembly between Israelis and Palestinians in September was one of the primary reasons for the sense of urgency to renew negotiations between the two sides, a senior White House official said during a press briefing on Wednesday,” reported Barak Ravid of Haaretz.
“The Palestinians throughout the course of this year have been making clear that if they couldn’t see progress on the peace front, that their intention would be to seek other elevations of their status, whether at the UN or other international organizations,” said the official.
“It is something that could have created a significant amount of friction and really interrupted the progress we want to see in the region. So it’s no secret that one of the motivating factors, I think for everybody, was to avoid that sort of train wreck that would have happened, if we weren’t able to get negotiations started.”
“With this process moving forward, the risk of clash at the UN or elsewhere is reduced or eliminated,” the official said.
UPDATED KEY HEADLINES TO TRACK:
- Netanyahu will have to show his cards — and a map; The Americans are keeping the premise of the new talks close to their chests, but one thing is clear: This time, everything is on the table (Times of Israel analysis, Aug 1)
- Netanyahu The Peacemaker (Roger Cohen column in the New York Times)
- Talks Begin on Mideast, to Doubts on All Sides (NYT news story, 7/29)
- Israelis, Palestinians get face time with Obama (Washington Post news story, 7/30)
- In Ramallah, little enthusiasm and less expectation as talks restart (Times of Israel news story, 7/30)