White House calls for resumption of peace talks

Carney says direct negotiations must address final-status issues; UN envoy says settlement construction undermines mutual trust.

Robert Serry (photo credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz)
Robert Serry
(photo credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz)
WASHINGTON - The White House on Wednesday renewed its call for a resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in the wake of Israeli elections in which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu emerged the winner but with a weaker-than-expected showing for his right-wing bloc.
White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to speculate on Netanyahu's efforts to forge a new governing coalition after center-left parties scored surprising gains but said President Barack Obama would likely call the prime minister to congratulate him on his election win.
"We believe that what needs to take place is direct negotiations between the two parties (Israelis and Palestinians) that addresses the final-status issues and results in a two-state solution," Carney told reporters when asked about the possible consequences of the election for moribund peace efforts.
Obama in his first term failed to make progress in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking but his administration has signaled that it may make another peace push in his second term, which started with his inauguration earlier this week.
Meanwhile, a senior United Nations envoy told the Security Council on Wednesday that in order to save the two-state solution, Israelis and Palestinians must take "courageous" steps to avoid the "dire consequences" of inaction, .
"This is not a time to be idle," said Robert Serry, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. In his comments at the Council's open debate on the Middle East, Serry stated that the backdrop of ongoing regional events including Tuesday's elections in Israel could affect the peace process.
“We are entering a critical period ahead, in which concerted action will be vital if we are to salvage the two-State solution,” he stated.
The envoy urged both sides to abstain from actions that would make meaningful negotiations fruitless, calling on Israel to restore the "timely, predictable and transparent transfers of tax and customs revenues without further delay.”
In addition to raising the Israeli government's decision to withhold tax revenues belonging to the Palestinian Authority, Serry cited "worrying events" including continued settlement construction that serves to undermines mutual trust.
"If Israel is serious about the two-state solution it must recognize the negative impact of continued settlement construction. Palestinian seriousness could be demonstrated by pausing further action in the international arena while talks begin,” he stated.
The envoy said that the onus for action must come from the parties themselves, stating that no international effort alone is sufficient for progress.
“If they want to provide themselves and others with the opportunity to get on track in the period ahead, then now is not the time for actions that further undermine mutual trust,” Serry told the council.
He added that the peace process will remain on life-support if the leaders fail to engage in serious talks.
“Israeli and Palestinian leaders have stated, like us, that they are convinced the two-State solution is the only path toward a durable peace. But they should realize that absent serious engagement, the peace process will remain on life-support and stability on the ground will be put at risk even further.” said Serry. “The consequences for inaction could be dire for everyone," he warned.
Setting a time period for critical action, the envoy acknowledged that the process required by both sides was no easy task, but that "courageous action" must be undertaken within the year.
“We cannot afford another year without courageous action undertaken for the purpose of achieving a two-state solution,” Serry stated.
At the same debate, the Palestinian Authority's foreign minister said settlements are the main obstacle to peace and the two-state solution, according to Palestinian Ma'an news agency.
Riyad al-Malki stated that the window for a two-state solution was closing. "There can be no one in this chamber today who can deny this," Ma'an quoted him as saying. He also called on Israel to halt settlement construction as a legal obligation, not as a precondition.
The foreign minister also addressed the recent PA status upgrade at the UN, saying that he hoped the Security Council would accept Palestine as a full member of the UN, Ma'an reported.