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July 25, 2013 - Image 59

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-07-25

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Lots of unknowns as Kerry lures both sides back to peace negotiations.

Ben Sales

likely include at least some evacuation of
Israeli settlers from the West Bank and
Palestinians abandoning claims for mil-
lions of refugees to return to Israel.
On the Palestinian side, Abbas has held
power for eight years without elections
and has no power in Gaza, which has been
controlled by llamas since 2006. Kerry has
gained backing for the negotiations from
the Arab League, but Hamas, deemed a
terrorist group by Israel and the United
States, has come out against the talks.



e don't know.
That's the operative phrase
of the new round of Israeli-
Palestinian peace talks announced Friday
and ostensibly set to begin in the coming
days in Washington.
We don't know their parameters, or if
Israel will freeze settlements, release hun-
dreds of Palestinian prisoners or agree to
negotiate based on its pre-1967 borders.
We don't know whether the Palestinian
Authority has agreed to recognize Israel
as a Jewish state. We don't know how long
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas will hold off on taking Israel to the
International Criminal Court.
Most of all, we don't know whether
they'll lead anywhere.
The talks, according to U.S. Secretary
of State John Kerry, will last six to nine
months with the intended outcome of a
two-state, final-status agreement between
Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
For now, they will involve the chief
negotiators for both sides: Saeb Erekat for
the Palestinians, and Tzipi Livni and Isaac
Molho for the Israelis.
The rest of the details, as Kerry said in
his Friday announcement, are "specula-
tion" and "conjecture'
"The agreement is still in the process
of being formalized, so we are absolutely
not going to talk about any of the elements
now," Kerry said, adding that "the people
who know the facts are not talking about
them. The parties have agreed that I will
be the only one making further comments
about this:'
Kerry's dogged efforts to simply bring
both sides to the table — including six
trips to the region this year — have been
characterized by their secrecy. During his
months of shuttling between Jerusalem,
Ramallah and Amman, Kerry has praised
progress toward negotiations but kept
details under wraps.
Following Kerry's announcement on
Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu said he hopes the talks will
prevent the establishment of a bi-national
state in Israel and the creation of an
Iranian-sponsored terrorist entity in the
West Bank.
"These will not be easy negotiations,
but we will enter into them with integrity,
sincerity and the hope that this process
will be conducted responsibly, seriously

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with U.S. Secretary of State
John Kerry in Jerusalem on June 28.

and substantively — and,
I must say, at least in the
opening stages, discreetly:'
he told his cabinet on
Sunday. "Throughout this
process, I will strongly
uphold, as I already have,
the security needs of the
State of Israel and other
vital interests:'

Is P.A. Serious
This Time?
Signs of the rocky road
Kerry sitting with Palestinian Authority President
ahead were evident
Mahmoud Abbas before a meeting in Ramallah,
almost immediately,
West Bank, July 19.
with Palestinian officials
denying Monday that any
agreement had been reached to participate failed. Israelis and Palestinians have been
in final-status negotiations.
talking peace for more than 20 years, but
A Palestinian spokesperson said the
the process has borne little fruit in the past
upcoming meeting would only be a pre-
liminary one; formal negotiations would
The last attempt at talks, in 2010, ended
take place only when Israel consented to
after three weeks when Israel rebuffed
freeze settlement expansion and negotiate
Abbas' demand for the extension of a
based on the 1967 lines. Israeli ministers
10-month settlement building freeze.
shot back that they would agree to none of
Before that, lengthy negotiations in 2008
those stipulations.
between then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Israel is set to release 82 Palestinian
Olmert and Abbas reportedly ended after
prisoners as a goodwill gesture ahead of
Abbas rejected an Israeli proposal with-
the talks, but Israeli Intelligence Minister
out presenting a counteroffer. Soon after,
Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio that "a set-
Olmert was indicted for corruption and
tlement building freeze isn't on the table:'
resigned his post.
It's far from clear whether the politi-
The biggest question that no one can
answer, of course, is whether this round
cal will exists on either side to conclude
will succeed where so many others have
a final-status agreement, which would

Opposition Within Coalition
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu supports the talks, but a major-
ity of his coalition opposes the establish-
ment of a Palestinian state. In January's
election, Jewish Home — a pro-settler
party — won 12 of the Knesset's 120 seats
running on a platform of opposing a
Palestinian state.
Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett,
Israel's economics minister, threatened
Monday to vote against the coalition's pro-
posed budget unless Netanyahu advances
a bill that would put any peace deal to
a national referendum. Netanyahu said
Sunday he would do that.
And in recent weeks, as Kerry was gal-
vanizing support for the talks, prominent
members of Netanyahu's Likud Party —
including Deputy Defense Minister Danny
Danon — came out against Palestinian
On Saturday, Danon said he trusts
Netanyahu but opposes settlement evacua-
tion or a release of Palestinian prisoners.
"We must not repeat the injustice of the
past and uproot thousands of Jews from
their homes:' Danon said in a statement.
"I also hope that we learn from previous
mistakes regarding the release of prisoners
with blood on their hands. These mur-
derers must not be released as an 'act of
good will' or as a prize for returning to the
negotiating table:'
Should Netanyahu's coalition turn on
him, the prime minister could count on
support from across the aisle. Labor Party
Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, who
leads the opposition, has said her party
would support Netanyahu should a peace
deal come to the table.
"I hope that Prime Minister Netanyahu,
who declared loud and clear that he sup-
ports the two-state solution, will make the
necessary decisions:' Yachimovich said,
according to the website, Times of Israel.
"We should not just settle for a renewal of
negotiations but do everything possible to
work toward real accords:' ❑

July 25 • 2013


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