Leaders Convey �Sense of Readiness� by Arabs for Peace

Bridges For Peace (Link) - BFP Israel Mosaic Radio - Joshua Spurlock (September 5, 2010)

Israel and the Palestinians re-launched direct peace talks last week in the US, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the participation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II conveyed a �sense of readiness� by the Arab world to reach a deal. In comments to the weekly cabinet meeting posted on the Prime Minister�s Office Web site, Netanyahu said that while some �important� nations in the Arab world have not gotten behind the peace process, �my impression is the willingness of President Mubarak and King Abdullah to attend, despite the attacks, reflects a sense of readiness that exists in the Arab world, that this is the time to try and complete a peace settlement between us and the Palestinians and to expand it into a broader cycle of peace.�

�In my estimation, this sense stems both from an understanding of the significance of the alternatives and from the recognition that they simply must make peace with Israel.� The next round of talks with the Palestinians is expected to take place September 14�15. Netanyahu noted that in order to succeed this time, they need to study the past 17 years of negotiations and to �embrace original thinking, to think outside the box as it were. We will need to think creatively, and in new ways, about how to resolve complex problems.�

Meanwhile, Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren said last Friday [September 3] that the first round of talks went longer than anticipated and was candid and very serious. �From everything I saw, [it was] a meeting conducted in good faith and also with a good sense of friendliness, and open and warm,� said Oren. �So I have reason today to feel optimistic.�

Oren, speaking in a conference call briefing joined by Bridges for Peace and sponsored by the Israel Advocacy Initiative, said that the parties are seeking to create a �framework� agreement before reaching a final deal. Oren said that is an agreement that is not specific, but will talk �in broader terms about the parameters of the peace, without getting into sort of the detail of the peace.� He said they hope to achieve such an agreement �in a short period of time.�

In comments made by US Mideast Envoy George Mitchell and posted on the US State Department Web site, Mitchell noted that a framework agreement is �not an interim agreement. It�s more detailed than a declaration of principles, but is less than a full-fledged treaty. Its purpose is to establish the fundamental compromises necessary to enable the parties to then flesh out and complete a comprehensive agreement.�

Oren said a �major hurdle� coming up in the process is the conclusion of the Israeli settlement construction freeze, which is set to expire on September 26. The Palestinians consider an extension of the freeze important to ongoing negotiations. Oren said their position when they initiated the settlement freeze was that it was a one-time inducement to return to talks and not designed to be a precondition to continue the talks. Further, he said they feel the settlements are a subtopic of the core issues of borders and security and should be dealt with in the negotiations.

While noting that they are working for a solution to the situation, and recognize the political pressures facing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with regards to the settlements, Oren said Israel does not �cherry-pick� specific issues from the talks as preconditions for the talks to resume and the Palestinians shouldn�t either.

�We are discussing very intensely, both with our American friends and our Palestinian partners, about how we can overcome this particular obstacle and move forward quickly,� said Oren. ��We are trying to find other means of incentivizing them [the Palestinians] to stay at the negotiating table. But the most important thing is that the principal be established that over the course of negotiations that we stay at the table and not leave the table every time you don�t get your way.� Said Oren, �We are working our best to make sure that these negotiations pass the hurdle of the end of the [construction] moratorium and continue to fruition.�