WASHINGTON – The US is increasing its calls for Israelis and Palestinians to
move to direct negotiations, even as Palestinians continue to demand Israeli
concessions before moving on from proximity talks.
spokesman P.J. Crowley described the US posture on Tuesday as having “a full
court press under way to see if we can move to direct
to meet Mubarak in Egypt
PA not ruling
out direct talks
Crowley’s comments came after reports that US Middle East
envoy George Mitchell had told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
that Washington might not be able to help the Palestinians attain their goals if
they did not move to direct talks soon.
Israel has been stressing its
interest in moving to face-toface negotiations after several weeks of proximity
talks, though the government has also sent signals that it was losing patience
with Palestinian positions.
A major Palestinian demand has focused on
extending the settlement moratorium past September, which Prime Minister
Netanyahu set as the end of the freeze when he announced it in November.
Observers have suggested that the construction halt could be extended if direct
talks were under way.
On Wednesday, though, Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman of Israel Beiteinu rejected the notion that the moratorium would be
extended past September and dismissed any linkage between the freeze and direct
But Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the highest-ranking Labor Party
member of the coalition and a key point man for the US on matters related to the
peace process, is in Washington this week to reiterate Israel’s interest in
moving forward in its discussions with the Palestinians.
meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday, Crowley described
their 45-minute oneon- one session as part of “an ongoing part of our effort to
try to push the parties to direct negotiations as soon as
Barak, whose visit to the US concludes on Thursday, met with
Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday, where Iran and maintaining Israel’s
qualitative military edge – particularly through air capabilities – were the
Barak also spoke to Fox News about Iran on Tuesday, calling
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “quite a sophisticated but bizarre
Barak said that while “even tougher sanctions might not be
sufficient” to halt Iran’s nuclear program, right now is “still the time for
sanctions,” and that in any case “we have to exhaust alternatives.”
wouldn’t answer a question about whether Israel had a timeline before facing a
point of no return, presumably triggering a military strike, but the defense
minister did say, “It’s clear that beyond a certain point, an operation against
Iran might not be that relevant, both for the US and for anyone
Barak noted that Israel was urging that all countries, itself
included, leave all options for dealing with Iran on the table.
rejected the suggestion that Israel had lost faith in the Obama administration’s
handling of Iran over the past few months of tension between the two allies, as
well as the notion that the White House was prepared to accept a nuclear
“There are certainly differences of perspectives about timelines
and what exactly could be done about it, but I find no love lost between this
administration and the Iranians,” he said. “I think that they are showing quite
a readiness to look reality in the eyes.”