Israelis Serious about Talks with Palestinians

Ahead of the first face-to-face talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians in more than a year, a spokesman for Israel said they are entering the discussions with “great seriousness.” Meanwhile, the Palestinian chief negotiator told Ynet that Tuesday’s meetings are not a restart to peace talks and that the Palestinians are continuing their demands that Israel freeze settlement construction and make concessions on the framework for borders before negotiations resume in earnest.

Israeli Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Mark Regev, speaking by phone with The Mideast Update on Monday, expressed the hope the talks will lead to the renewal of peace talks.

“We want to see the route that the Quartet has put on the table and Israel has accepted, which is let’s move now as soon as possible to direct negotiations, and in the framework of those negotiations we should discuss the core issues of the conflict,” said Regev. “We are ready for that.”

The meetings on Tuesday are hosted by the Jordanian government in their capital of Amman and will include representatives of the Mideast Quartet—the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. The Quartet has called for the sides to present proposals on borders and security within the next month, with the goal to reach an agreement between the sides by the end of 2012.

Regev reiterated they are prepared to discuss all of the core issues to the conflict with the Palestinians, but they want the process to be comprehensive. “Israel has been ready for discussion of all the core issues to the conflict. We think that’s the only way to try to narrow the gaps,” said Regev.

“One of the problems has been up until now is that the Palestinians have said, ‘We only want to discuss one of the core issues, the issue of borders,’ where the presumption is that’s the issue where Israel has to show flexibility.”

He said that Israel is willing to show flexibility, but “we want to have a situation where there is a real negotiation, where there are tradeoffs between the different issues and we’re ready for that sort of comprehensive discussion.”

Israel has repeatedly called for talks to resume without preconditions. The Palestinians suspended negotiations in 2010 after the end of Israel’s unprecedented 10-month settlement construction freeze. Regev critiqued the Palestinian demands, which negotiator Saeb Erekat reiterated in his interview with Ynet.

“I would only ask the Palestinians: What has boycotting the negotiation table bought you? What benefit has this bought for the Palestinians? And I think the answer is clear: nothing. On the contrary, the only way to Palestinian statehood, to peace, to reconciliation between the two peoples, is through negotiations.”

He did not comment explicitly on whether they would bring a new offer or discussion point to the table with the Palestinians to change the dynamic, saying, “We as Israelis are coming to these discussions in Jordan with great seriousness, after substantive preparation. We’re ready to go.”

Israel expressed gratefulness to the Jordanians for setting up Tuesday’s discussions with the Palestinians, and Regev repeated that sentiment. He also noted they have been calling for direct talks without preconditions for years.

“We’ve even said we’re wiling to meet the Palestinian negotiating team anywhere, anytime,” said Regev. “That it’s happening this week in Jordan is a good thing, and we publicly than the Jordanian leadership, the Jordanian government for making this happen.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, January 2, 2012)