Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks Resume in Washington, DC

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Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni shake hands at a news conference at the end of talks at the State Department in Washington on July 30, 2013
Source: Arshad Mohammed and Lesley Wroughton, “Israel, Palestinians Strive for Peace Deal within Nine Months,” reuters.com, July 30, 2013

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed in Washington, DC on July 29, 2013, marking the first direct negotiations between the two sides since exploratory talks in Jordan ended without progress in Jan. 2012. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators officially committed to nine months of direct negotiations to reach an agreement ending the conflict.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and special envoy Isaac Molho head the Israeli side, while the Palestinians are represented by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and advisor Mohammed Shtayyeh. The goal of negotiations will be to “establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel with agreed-upon borders and security arrangements,” according to the New York Times. Talks will initially establish the procedural conditions for negotiations before addressing core issues such as borders, refugees, settlements, and the division of Jerusalem.

“When somebody tells you that Israelis and Palestinians cannot find common ground or address the issues that divide them, don’t believe them,” US Secretary of State Kerry said during a press conference following the first evening of talks. “While I understand the skepticism, I don’t share it and I don’t think we have time for it. We cannot pass along to another generation the responsibility of ending a conflict that is in our power to resolve in our time. They should not be expected to bear that burden, and we should not leave it to them.”

Elliott Abrams, a former senior official on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council, said that he sees “no realistic possibility that a final status agreement can be reached now,” adding, “I just hope there are two State Department teams: one to work on the talks, and the other to start planning for what to do when they fail. We should not only try to avoid a crash landing, but see if the talks can be used to advance Israeli-Palestinian economic and security cooperation.”

The Israeli Knesset voted on July 28 to approve the release of 104 Palestinian prisoners in advance of talks as a confidence-building measure. Both sides met for a working dinner at the State Department with Kerry on July 29 and another meeting on July 30 before agreeing to resume talks in the Middle East in several weeks with former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk.

Sources:

Adam Chandler, “Day One of Peace Drive: Grouper and Saffron Risotto,” tabletmag.com, July 30, 2013

Adam Chandler, “Day Two of Peace Drive: The Universe Undermines Kerry,” tabletmag.com, July 31, 2013

Tom Cohen, “Israel, Palestinians Launch Sustained Peace Talks,” cnn.com, July 30, 2013

Michael R. Gordon and Isabel Kershner, “Israel and Palestinians Set to Resume Peace Talks, US Announces,” nytimes.com, July 28, 2013

Michael R. Gordon and Isabel Kershner, “Talks Begin on Mideast, to Doubts on All Sides,” nytimes.com, July 29, 2013

Erin McClam, “A Guide to the 2013 Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks,” worldnews.nbc.com, July 31, 2013

Arshad Mohammed and Lesley Wroughton, “Israel, Palestinians Strive for Peace Deal within Nine Months,” reuters.com, July 30, 2013