Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with US Vice President Joseph Biden in his
official Jerusalem residence Monday evening following Ariel Sharon’s funeral,
with the meeting believed to have focused on both Iran and the Palestinian
No remarks were made beforehand, and no statement was
Biden and Netanyahu were scheduled to have a one-on-one
meeting, following a meeting with top aides. The US side, in addition to Biden,
included US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake
Sullivan, and the National Security Council’s director for Israeli and
Palestinian affairs, Maher Bitar.
This was Biden’s first visit to Israel
since March 2010, which was marred by an Israeli announcement at the time on the
construction of new housing units in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of
Ramat Shlomo, over the pre- 1967 lines.
Before meeting with Netanyahu,
Biden visited President Shimon Peres and told him Israel’s security depended on
“genuine accommodation” with a Palestinian state.
He characterized the
Arab Spring as an “incredibly historical phenomenon,” and said “the only place
where there is a possibility for an island of stability is quite frankly between
the Palestinian people and the Israeli people, in two secure states respecting
one another’s sovereignty and security.”
“This is one of those
opportunities, one of those moments in history. It has to be seized,” Biden
said, adding that US Secretary of State John Kerry is passionate about achieving
a successful outcome.
He said he believes Netanyahu “is up to the
challenge,” and also expressed hope that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas also “will be up to the task.”
Israeli diplomatic officials said it
was not clear when Kerry would be returning to the region.
secretary of state met with Arab League foreign ministers late Sunday in Paris
and said afterward that he told them “we really are at a critical point, as
Palestinians and Israeli leaders grapple with difficult and challenging
decisions that lie ahead.”
Kerry praised Abbas and Netanyahu for already
having made tough choices, “and they are contemplating even tougher choices in
the weeks ahead.
The Arab foreign ministers made clear to me that they
support Israeli and Palestinian leaders’ efforts to take the next bold,
courageous steps of agreeing to a framework for permanent status
PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki met in Paris on Sunday
night with Kerry and – according to a statement issued from his office – said he
reiterated the PA’s opposition to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and
insisted that east Jerusalem become the capital of a future Palestinian
The Arab ministers support the Palestinian position on all major
issues, the statement said.
Malki told the Voice of Palestine radio that
Kerry needs to “improve” his latest proposals and take into consideration the
Palestinian demands, which have now also become Arab demands.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi, who is also in
Paris, said it is premature to talk about a specific draft for a peace agreement
between Israel and the Palestinians.
He said that the negotiations
between the two sides could continue for some time.
In the meantime,
Palestinian activists are planning to demonstrate in Ramallah on Tuesday in
protest against Kerry’s intention to present a framework for continued talks to
the Palestinian Authority.
The activists denounced the proposed document
as “catastrophic,” saying it is aimed at “liquidating the Palestinian
The activists expressed fear that the PA leadership would be
forced to make “new concessions” as part of Kerry’s proposal.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier – who attended Sharon’s funeral
and was in the country as part of a prearranged visit – met with Palestinian
officials in Ramallah and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in the
Steinmeier said that this was his first visit outside of Germany
since recently being appointed foreign minister, and is a testament to Germany’s
commitment toward Israel.
Regarding the diplomatic process, he said that
nothing is certain in this region, “but perhaps this year will be a year of
better opportunities than in the past.”
Noting that Germany supports
Kerry’s efforts, Steinmeier said it is necessary to “lay the foundations for a
This means, he added, “that the Palestinians will
have to decide whether they are willing to walk down the path toward a twostate
solution, and it also means telling the Israelis they must not disturb the
efforts taking place now through building in the settlements or other actions
contrary to these efforts.”
In a related development, Liberman is
scheduled to travel to Geneva on Tuesday to represent Israel at the ceremony
marking its entrance into CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear
He is also scheduled to meet with Navanethem Pillay, the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; as well as with Margaret Chan, the
director- general of the World Health Organization; and Sven Alkalaj, the
executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe.
he is to travel to Vienna and meet with Austria’s 27-year-old foreign minister,
Sebastian Kurz, who assumed office a month ago.
Jerusalem Post staff
contributed to this report.