Riyad Mansour 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
A top Palestinian diplomat called Monday for a cease-fire with Israel in both Gaza and the West Bank, saying the quiet would strengthen moderates seeking a political settlement.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Observer Mission's ambassador to the UN, also backed a cease-fire between warring Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas.
The need to stop intra-Palestinian fighting was one of the rare points of agreement between Mansour and the other panelists - Egyptian, Israeli and American diplomats - who joined him at Monday's event on reviving the peace process, sponsored by the American Task Force on Palestine.
Despite the talk of cease-fires, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy Jeremy Issacharoff warned that there could be an increase in the fighting.
Noting the hundreds of Kassam rockets Palestinians are launching towards Israel, he said the country's "tremendous restraint can't go on forever."
While Mansour and Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy stressed the need and potential for final status talks, Issacharoff countered that the "reality on the ground" must change before the parties could approach a settlement.
"We are at a strategic crossroads, and with a reliable partner, we would have a different attitude," he said.
In recent months, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has increased American efforts at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has pushed both sides to meet in order to sketch out a "political horizon" of what a final status might look like.
At the same time, the Arab League endorsed a plan for granting Israel recognition in exchange for its return to the 1967 boundaries and other steps, including a statement on refugees that Israel finds problematic.
"If we don't do it today, it will be more difficult in the future," Fahmy said.
"Things have gone backwards" since the start of the second intifada, he acknowledged. "The belief that it's possible is lower."
But he added, "The picture of peace is clearer."
While he and others pointed to the need for a cease-fire between Fatah and Hamas, none of the panelists were able to propose a plan to contain the fighting.
Former US ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis noted that "there have been 50 cease-fires in the last three months," but each was broken as quickly as it was formed.