President Shimon Peres voiced hope on Thursday that progress could be achieved
soon in Israeli- Palestinian negotiations, saying peace might come “sooner than
Peres and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad offered
contrasting views of the peace process at the World Economic Forum in Davos,
after the latest round of preliminary talks between the sides concluded in
“In the negotiations the gap was seriously narrowed, and neither
the Palestinians nor the Israelis have any choice but to make peace,” Peres
said. “We need a bouquet of agreements, which won’t cover all the issues, to
enable the Palestinians and Israel to keep open the negotiations.
believe if we negotiate, peace will come maybe sooner than we think.”
more downbeat Fayyad said at the forum the peace process “has never been this
lacking in focus,” and the “conditions are actually not right, or ripe, for the
resumption of the political process.”
“Right now, one would have to work
really hard to be hopeful,” said Fayyad.
Israel’s envoy to the talks in
Jordan, Yitzhak Molcho, outlined Wednesday night for the Palestinians the
principles and parameters that will guide Israel’s policy on border issues, an
Israeli government official said on Thursday.
According to the official,
Molcho did not draw a line on a map, but rather spoke in general principles
about what Israel would take into consideration when drawing that
Israel’s presentation of the principles guiding its thinking on the
border issues follows a similar presentation Israel gave the Palestinians
Saturday night in Amman outlining the principles guiding its thinking on
Under the Quartet formula drawn up on September 23 for
bringing the sides to the negotiating table, both Israel and the Palestinians
were to present each other with comprehensive proposals on those two issues
within 90 days. According to the Palestinians, that 90-day period expired on
Thursday, while Israel – which believes that the period did not start until
direct talks began in Amman earlier this month – that period does not end until
the beginning of April.
In an apparent effort to preempt Palestinian
claims that Israel refuses to deal with the border issue, the official said
Israel “is dealing with the issues that the Quartet believes are
He said that both sides asked for clarification from the
other regarding issues that were raised.
“Israel’s position remains that
within the framework of a peace process moving forward, we are ready for mutual
confidence measures. But the talks must be without preconditions.”
the steps the Palestinians are asking for is a release of Fatah prisoners held
in Israeli jails. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made clear that one of
the steps he expects from the Palestinian side is an end to incitement within
the Palestinian Authority.
The official said that the current talks in
Amman are indeed in a preliminary stage, and that Israel’s position is that it
was important to “let the talks reach fruition, and not cut them off
“Israel remains committed to the Quartet framework,” the official
said. “It is ready to move forward according to its timetable, and is ready for
substantive talks on core issues. We hope this is not stifled at the very
No date for another round of talks was set after Wednesday
The Quartet has set the end of 2012 as a deadline for
reaching an agreement.
The official acknowledged that the sides were
talking about gestures they could make to each other to improve the
Netanyahu spoke by phone Thursday with German Chancellor
Angela Merkel, thanking her for supporting the ratcheting up of EU sanctions
against Iran earlier this week. He has already held similar conversations over
the last few days with British Prime Minister David Cameron and with French
President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Israeli officials said that Europe very much
wants to see the Amman talks continue, and that Merkel is expected to relay this
message to PA President Mahmoud Abbas in the coming days.
economist who previously worked for the International Monetary Fund, said the
international community was needed as a mediator in the process, and should also
be providing the Palestinian Authority with more resources in its statebuilding
Fayyad placed the ball firmly in Israel’s court, blaming the
lack of progress on its military incursions into areas under PA control and
restrictions on Palestinian movement in the rest of the West Bank that remains
under Israeli control.
Given those actions, and 18 years after the Oslo
peace process was launched, it is unclear what Peres means by his support for a
two-state solution, Fayyad said.
“What kind of state does he have in mind
when he says ‘Palestinian state’?” he asked.
“To be clear about what we
mean by that: We are looking for an independent, viable state of Palestine on
the territories occupied in 1967,” added Fayyad.
Bloomberg and Jerusalem
Post staff contributed to this report.