Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will face each other across the table in
Amman on Tuesday for the first time in 16 months to discuss how, and indeed
whether, diplomatic negotiations will proceed.
negotiator Saeb Erekat reiterated on Monday the Palestinian Authority demand for
a full Israeli cessation of construction in the settlements and east Jerusalem,
and acceptance of the June 4, 1967, lines as the basis for a two-state solution,
saying this would pave the way for the resumption of serious
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Israel’s position, said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s
spokesman Mark Regev, was that the talks should be held without any
preconditions, and that they should deal substantively with all core
“We sincerely hope that the meeting in Amman heralds the
beginning of direct ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to achieve peace,”
Israel was ready to “move ahead on the path articulated by
the Quartet, and we hope the Palestinians are willing to do so as well,” he
The meeting is scheduled for early evening. The first part
will be held together with the representatives of the Middle East Quartet – the
US, EU, Russia and UN – who have met separately with each side on a number of
occasions in Jerusalem since September.
The second part of the meeting
will be between the Israelis and Palestinians, with the Jordanians being the
only other people in the room.
Erekat, speaking to reporters in Ramallah,
hailed Jordan’s King Abdullah for hosting the talks, and described them as
designed to “commit” Israel to “international legitimacy, including the road map
for peace, which calls for a freeze of construction in the
He urged the Israeli government to take advantage of the
“positive opportunity” provided by the Jordanian monarch by halting activities
in the settlements, accepting the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967
“borders” and releasing Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
of the prisoners will be at the top of the Palestinians’ agenda, Erekat
He added that former prime minister Ehud Olmert had promised PA
President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel would free Fatah-affiliated prisoners once a
deal was struck with Hamas in return for IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
Israeli government official said that the Palestinians are free to bring up
whatever they wish to discuss, just as Israel is free to bring up its concerns.
“Israel is ready for mutual, reciprocal confidence- building measures,” he
Asked what steps Israel expected from the Palestinians in return
for measures like the release of prisoners, the official said that over the past
few weeks Jerusalem had been concerned about a number of Palestinian moves, such as unilateral actions
in the UN, the PA’s reconciliation talks with Hamas and Abbas’s meetings in
Turkey with terrorists released in the Schalit deal.
According to a
Quartet statement from September 23 that set a framework for returning to
negotiations, the two sides were supposed to hold a preparatory meeting within a
month to agree on an agenda and procedure for moving forward.
meeting in Amman appears to be the one required by the statement.
who denied that the Palestinian leadership was considering dismantling the PA if
the peace process collapsed, said the PA had complied with the Quartet’s
conditions by presenting “comprehensive positions” on the issues of borders and
Within three months, the Quartet statement read, the sides were
to come forward with comprehensive proposals on territory and security. The
Palestinians interpreted that to mean that each side was to present these
proposals to the Quartet, which the Palestinians have done, while Israel’s
interpretation was that they would be presented by the sides to each other
during the three months of intensive negotiations.
The difference, one
Israeli official said, was that the Palestinians wanted to get the Quartet more
actively involved in arbitrating between the two sides, while Israel wanted to
deal directly with the Palestinians without outside interference.
official, asked if Israel had compiled its positions, said only that “we have
done our homework.”
He would not say whether Israeli’s representative in
the talks, chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, planned to present Erekat with
Israel’s proposals on territory and security, stating the talks would only
succeed if such details were not made public beforehand.
Criticism of the
talks was voiced on Monday both in Israel and among several Palestinian
Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) said that
while this was a positive development, it seemed as if the Palestinians agreed
to meet only to appease the international community. Shalom stated he did not
believe this meeting was a breakthrough, and pointed out that it came just after
Abbas met terrorists in Turkey and held talks with Hamas – which rejects
Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas, meanwhile, called on the PA to boycott
the Amman meeting, arguing the talks would only benefit Israel and help it
improve its image in the international arena.
The Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine condemned the talks as a “grave mistake that would
encourage the occupation [Israel] to pursue its practices” against
Islamic Jihad said the meeting was a waste of time and
would allow Israel to continue creating facts on the ground.
Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed the talks, saying “We
are hopeful that this direct exchange can help move us forward on the pathway
proposed by the Quartet.
“The status quo is not sustainable and the
parties must act boldly to advance the cause of peace.”