On the day before arriving in Israel from Jordan, UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to give the Palestinians
some “goodwill gestures” so the low-level talks that began in Amman last month
“Of course, it will also be required that the Palestinian
Authorities come to [the] dialogue table,” he said Tuesday after meeting in Amman with
Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
government officials said that within the framework of negotiations, Israel
would be willing to engage in reciprocal gestures with the Palestinians and that
there was currently a discussion at senior echelons as to what gestures Israel
would put into a package.
The Palestinian Authority is seeking the
release of high-profile Fatah prisoners, but the officials said Israel was
looking primarily at what steps it could take in the “economic sphere” to
improve the situation in the West Bank. While they said the Palestinian economy
was among the fastest growing in the world, it slowed down last year and these
steps would be aimed at trying to make the economy there more
Israel is not expected to immediately announce any gestures to
the PA, but is likely to announce the approval of a number of infrastructure,
education and housing projects in Gaza to coincide with Ban’s visit there on
Ban is expected to view UN projects there but not to
meet with any Hamas officials.
In Jordan, Ban called for a continuation
of the low-level talks between Israel and the Palestinians, saying he hoped the
five rounds of “preparatory meetings” held in Amman so far would continue and
ultimately lead to serious negotiations.
While various Palestinian
spokesmen have blamed Israel for what they said was the failure of the
preliminary talks, there has been no formal announcement by the Palestinians
that they would break off the discussions. The Palestinian leadership is coming
under pressure from the international community – including the US, EU and
Canada – to continue with the talks. Nevertheless, the last Israeli-Palestinian
meeting was held a week ago and no date for a future meeting has been
During his press conference with Judeh in Jordan, Ban said “dignity
and justice in this region are threatened, not only by authoritarian rule, but
also by occupation and conflict.”
He also said it was “essential that
provocations stop, as called for by the Quartet, and that the parties build
confidence and sustain these nascent talks.” He did not spell out what
“provocations” he was referring to.
Ban said last week in New York,
before embarking on this trip, that his visit was coming at “an important
moment” and that he hoped “to encourage both sides to engage in earnest and
create a positive atmosphere for moving forward.”
One government official in Jerusalem welcomed the UN
chief’s arrival, saying “he is viewed here more positively than his
Ban is scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres
immediately after arriving from Jordan. This will be followed by meetings with
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Netanyahu. He will go to Ramallah in the
afternoon for high-level meetings.
On Thursday, after visiting Gaza, Ban
will visit the Sapir Academic College near Sderot, which has been the target of
numerous Kassam rockets from Gaza. He will then hold meetings with Defense
Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni, and deliver the keynote
address at the 12th annual Herzliya Conference.
Yaakov Katz contributed
to this report.