Seeking Final Solution, Abbas Wants ‘Judenrein’ Palestinian State
Palestinian & Israeli negotiators meet for dinner in Washington on Monday, then to hold first work session on Tuesday.
PA President Abbas in Egypt: Not a single Israeli can remain on Palestinian lands.
By Shlomo Cesana, Yoni Hirsch, Israel Hayom Staff and News Agencies
After three years of stalemate, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process resumed in Washington on Monday and it remains to be seen whether this round of negotiations will yield a different result than past efforts.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces the appointment of Martin Indyk (left) as the new U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace process – Photo: Reuters
On Monday evening, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at the State Department building in Washington for an iftar dinner — the evening meal with which Muslims break their daily fast during Ramadan.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special envoy Yitzhak Molcho attended on behalf of Israel while chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ aide Mohammed Shtayyeh represented the Palestinians.
After the negotiating teams arrived in Washington, Kerry met separately with each, starting with the Israelis, before all came together around the dinner table. Kerry and his delegation of four, including new U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Martin Indyk, were seated on one side of the table and their guests on the other side, with the two main negotiators Livni and Erekat seated side by side.
“It’s very, very special to be here,” Kerry told his guests. “There isn’t very much to talk about at all,” he joked.
The Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams were to hold their first work meeting on Tuesday, to be followed by a press conference.
Before arriving in Washington, Livni and Molcho visited New York, where they met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. As part of the understandings reached ahead of the talks, the Palestinians agreed to refrain from asking the U.N. for recognition of statehood or any other unilateral steps in pursuit of statehood recognition during the course of the negotiations.
Moon expressed “strong support” for the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and also said he appreciated the “courageous decision of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in this regard.”
Livni said that negotiations would be “very tough” and there would be obstacles along the way. She added, however, that negotiations were the only way to achieve a two-state solution and protect Israel’s security and diplomatic interests.
In an interview with Reuters Television in Washington, Livni voiced some hope about the talks. “It is not a favor to the United States or to the Palestinians; this is something that we need to do,” she said.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday welcomed the renewal of talks, saying he was hopeful “that both the Israelis and Palestinians will approach these talks in good faith and with sustained focus and determination.”
“This is a promising step forward, though hard work and hard choices remain ahead,” Obama said.
Obama also praised the appointment of Indyk to lead the U.S. negotiating team.
The appointment of Indyk was announced by Kerry on Monday just ahead of the renewal of talks.
“[Indyk] is realistic,” Kerry said. “He understands that Israeli-Palestinian peace will not come easily and it will not happen overnight. But he also understands that there is now a path forward and we must follow that path with urgency.”
Regarding the upcoming negotiations, Kerry said, “Going forward, it’s no secret that this is a difficult process. If it were easy, it would have happened a long time ago. It’s no secret, therefore, that many difficult choices lie ahead for the negotiators and for the leaders as we seek reasonable compromises on tough, complicated, emotional, and symbolic issues. I think reasonable compromises have to be a keystone of all of this effort. I know the negotiations are going to be tough, but I also know that the consequences of not trying could be worse.”
Indyk, 62, replaces David Hale as the head of U.S. efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Hale took over the role from George Mitchell in 2011.
“It is a daunting and humbling challenge, but one that I cannot desist from,” Indyk said on Monday about his new role.
While Indyk expressed cautious optimism on Monday that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is achievable, he painted a less rosy picture a year and a half ago. In an interview with Army Radio then, he said, “I’m not particularly optimistic because I think that the heart of the matter is that the maximum concessions that this government of Israel would be prepared to make fall far short of the minimum requirements that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] will insist on. So it may be possible to keep the talks going, which is a good thing but I find it very hard to believe that they will reach an agreement.”
Abbas was in Cairo on Monday, where he laid out his vision for a final-status agreement with Israel.
Following Nazi doctrine, Abbas has had the same agenda all along.
Abbas said that no Israeli settlers or soldiers could remain in a future Palestinian state. He also said that Palestinians deem illegal all Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.
The forceful statements appeared to challenge Kerry’s hopes that the terms of the talks, scheduled to begin Monday night over dinner, be kept secret.
“In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands,” Abbas said in a briefing to mostly Egyptian journalists.
“An international, multinational presence like in Sinai, Lebanon and Syria — we are with that,” he said, referring to United Nations peacekeeping operations in those places.
Israel has said in the past that it would seek to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley after the establishment of a Palestinian state to prevent any influx of weapons that could be used against Israel.
But Abbas said he stood by understandings he said he reached with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu’s predecessor, that NATO forces could deploy in the Jordan Valley “as a security guarantee to us and them.”
Regarding Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem — among the most contentious issues facing the two sides — Abbas signalled no softening of his stance.
“We’ve already made all the necessary concessions,” he said.
“East Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine … if there were and must be some kind of small exchange (of land) equal in size and value, we are ready to discuss this — no more, no less,” he said.
Abbas was in Cairo to meet with Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, nearly a month after the Egyptian military ousted Mohammed Morsi. Abbas also discussed with senior Egyptian intelligence figures relations between Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, as well as the easing of movement of goods and people between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, a Qassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel on Tuesday morning. No injuries or damage were reported.
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