With Palestinian officials declaring preliminary talks with Israel a failure, an Israeli official on Thursday called upon the Palestinians to stick with the discussions, which seek to re-launch the peace process between the sides. Meanwhile, the European Union and the Americans are also reportedly hoping to keep the process going.
According to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, Palestinian officials have termed the discussions a failure, blaming Israel for not taking the talks serious enough. An anonymous Israeli official, speaking with The Mideast Update by phone, called the Palestinian declarations “posturing” and defended the Israeli approach, saying Israel has in fact discussed core issues in the conflict.
“I think Israel has been and remains ready for substantive discussions of the core issues, we have already raised in the framework of these talks important issues like territory and security,” said the official. “We’ve already had preliminary discussions, we think it would be a historic mistake if the Palestinians left the table and didn’t allow these discussions that we’re having reach fruition.”
The Israeli said the Americans and Europeans are calling for the conversations to continue, which have been held in Jordan during the month of January. The talks are the first public face-to-face peace discussions since the Palestinians suspended peace talks in 2010.
“I think there is today pressure on the Palestinians not to leave the table,” said the Israeli official, who added that they are “ready in the framework of a peace process for mutual confidence-building measures. But we have opposed and continue to oppose Palestinian attempts to impose preconditions on the talks.”
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has been in the region and The Mideast Update has learned from European diplomats that she has met with officials from Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan. The diplomats said they “hope the informal contacts will continue. Our aim is to persuade the parties to return to the negotiating table.”
The Mideast Quartet—the EU, the United States, Russia and the United Nations—have been trying in earnest to jumpstart the peace process for months, including a framework announced in September that aims for the sides to reach a deal by the end of this year.
The Quartet plan also called upon the parties to restart talks within a month and present proposals on borders and security within several months of that, which has led to the belief that today was an informal deadline for those proposals. However, according to European diplomats today is “not a concrete deadline. What matters is that the two sides keep talking.”
The Israeli official, meanwhile, said they have accepted the Quartet framework, but see the timeline as beginning only when direct talks actually began this month—giving them several more months before formal and detailed presentations on borders need to be presented. “We have accepted the framework articulated by the Quartet and we’re willing to move ahead according to that framework,” said the official.
He did agree with the Palestinian stance that a breakthrough has not been achieved in the five meetings held this month between negotiators from each side, but felt that expecting such an event at this time is unrealistic.
“We’ve been speaking for under a month, and I think it would be in many ways illogical to expect we’d have an immediate breakthrough,” said the official, who thanked the Jordanians for their efforts in the process. “We’ve started discussions, the discussions have yet to reach fruition. We say let’s continue, this is going to require an effort… But only through this process of dialogue, through face-to-face talks, can we move this process forward.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 26, 2012)