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US outlines cost of failure in peace talks to ‘Post’ ahead of NYC conference
By MICHAEL WILNER
06/04/2014
Keynote address from Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez is set to focus on Iran.
 
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK – As Israel and the Palestinians face a familiar precipice in their pursuit of peace, now mere weeks away from the end of the nine-month time frame set for negotiations over a two-state solution, Israeli leaders will converge in New York on Sunday to discuss the crisis at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference.

The Post confab will bring together diplomats, experts, acclaimed thinkers and noted journalists from the US and Israel.

A senior American administration official discussed the importance of the moment in comments to the Post.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have “hit a point where some decisions... have to be made,” the official said.

“They’ve really got to hear from [US Secretary of State John Kerry] that he’s willing to walk away if they can’t make those choices,” the official said. “[Kerry] very methodically, soberly let them know privately and then publicly that he will not invest the time, energy and resources for an endless period if they’re not willing to take the path forward.”

US President Barack Obama wants his chief diplomat to pursue this final push, the official continued, and acknowledges the importance of this juncture in the talks.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas filed paperwork last week to join 15 bodies at the United Nations as the “State of Palestine.”

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor plans to attend the conference and is expected to discuss the matter, which Israel’s government has characterized as escalatory and the US has called “unhelpful.”

A senior Democratic legislative aide on Capitol Hill told the Post that preliminary discussion has begun “about what these recent developments mean for US assistance to the Palestinians.”

“The conventions that the Palestinians joined are not UN agencies, but in the opinion of many on the Hill, the actions violated the spirit of negotiations,” the aide said.

While the cloud over the peace talks is expected to hang over the conference as well – Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s chief negotiator, canceled her appearance due to recent developments – the keynote address from Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) is set to focus on Iran, its nuclear program and the diplomatic efforts under way to stop it.

Menendez, the most powerful Democrat in Congress on foreign policy matters, wrote a bill that would have triggered additional sanctions against Iran if negotiations fail to solve the nuclear impasse by the July 20 deadline.

Obama threatened to veto the bill in January and warned it could fray a carefully built international consensus at the negotiating table with Iran. Those talks resume this week in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 – the US, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany.

Conference participants are set to hear briefings on a range of issues beyond the crises in the peace process and with Iran. Tourism Minister Uzi Landau will discuss the state of tourism in the Holy Land, and Israeli- Iranian singer Rita will perform for the audience of more than 1,000 Post readers, contributors and officials.
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