News / Middle East

Mideast Peace Talks Resume in Washington

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) speaks next to Martin Indyk at the State Department in Washington ,July 29, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) speaks next to Martin Indyk at the State Department in Washington ,July 29, 2013.
Robert Berger
Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are set to resume late Monday in Washington after a long stalemate. But there are plenty of obstacles ahead.
Key Issues in Israeli - Palestinian Talks

Two State Solution
  • Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as capital
  • Israel says future shape of Palestinian state must be based on negotiations and  resists calls to base talks on pre-war 1967 lines

Israeli Settlements
  • Israel has built large settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
  • Palestinians call for a total freeze on settlement activity

Status of Jerusalem
  • Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be their capital
  • Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and says Jerusalem is its indivisible, eternal capital

Palestinian Refugees
  • Palestinians demand refugees who left or were forced out when Israel was created in 1948 be allowed to return, along with their descendents
  • Israel rejects the right of return
The new Israeli-Palestinian talks follow nearly five years of paralysis, and skepticism on both sides runs deep. Twenty years of on-again, off-again negotiations have failed to achieve a final peace agreement with the creation of a Palestinian state.

Just hours before the negotiations were to begin,  US Secretary of State Kerry named former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk to be his point man for the talks. Indyk played a key role in the 2000 Camp David peace negotiations.

At a State Department briefing Monday with Indyk at his side, Kerry said "reasonable compromises must be the keystone for all efforts towards a negotiated settlement."
Israeli and Palestinian chief negotiators will try to hammer out a framework for the talks which will tackle the thorniest issues of the conflict: the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements and final borders. 
Gaps are wide, but the return to face-to-face talks signals that the parties are prepared to give peace a chance.  

Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni said the negotiations will be “very complex in a very difficult neighborhood.” But she said peace talks are necessary to preserve a secure and democratic Israel, and they are beginning with both caution and hope. 
Palestinian expectations are low, and disagreements have already emerged over the future borders of a Palestinian state. Palestinian officials say the negotiations must be based on an Israeli withdrawal from territories captured during the 1967 Middle East war, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are also demanding a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in those disputed areas. 
Mutstafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said the peace process is troubled.
“The declared agreement is quite fragile. It is obvious that Israel does not accept the ‘67 borders as terms of reference for these negotiations, and also, Israel is going to continue to build settlements while negotiations take place," Barghouti, said. "This would undermine completely any potential for the success of such negotiations.”  
Israel says that the 1967 borders are indefensible, Jerusalem is not negotiable and the future of the settlements will be determined in direct talks. 
Bridging those gaps will be a major challenge for Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and their American mediators. But to sweeten the cup, Israel plans to release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners. 
Related video

Israelis, Palestinians to Resume Direct Talksi
July 29, 2013 5:57 PM
Israelis and Palestinians are resuming direct talks after a three year lapse, with initial meetings in Washington to discuss plans to move forward. VOA's Suzanne Presto has more from the State Department.

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Comment Sorting
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 29, 2013 12:03 PM
I want to agree with Livni's "very difficult neighborhood” claim. We must agree that the White House as presently constituted is not friendly toward Israel. Again the Palestinian demand negates conservative Jewish tradition that dates back to at least 7000 years. The Middle East did not jump into existence in 1967, so how did the borders then come about? Perhaps the Palestinians should tell us what name they were called in the medieval so we can understand why they lay claim to the land, nay Jerusalem.

However it is interesting that the two parties have agreed to restart the negotiations, but the supporters should help them to achieve the elusive peace by stopping to push for untenable goals. Sticking to certain demands like stopping settlement building, East Jerusalem, etc., while still striding Israel on two sides is unacceptable. While we wish the peace process succeeds this time around as its success will bring much of the world's requirement of peace, it must not be at the cost of the original owners who rather than cry out as having their land occupied, are accused of annexing Palestinian land. Unfair as that may be, yet let there be peace in the Middle East so that the mad dogs will no longer proffer any more reason to attack modern civilization.

by: Oluwasegun Oluwadare from: Nigeria
July 29, 2013 10:11 AM
I pray for the peace of Israel,I pray for the peace of Jerusalem.Let there be peace within her walls and prosperity within her palaces.

A secured and peaceful Israel is a secured and peaceful Middle East.

by: Tony Bellchambers from: London
July 29, 2013 2:57 AM
How long before Netanyahu refuses to consider 'preconditions' i.e. to stop his illegal settlement policy on stolen occupied Palestinian land and forces the new 'peace' talks to close and reinforces the increasingly widespread view that it is he, Binyamin Netanyahu, who controls the Middle East foreign policy of the United States, the United Nations and the European Union.

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