“Proximity talks” between Israel and the Palestinians, moderated by the U.S., are expected to begin next week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters Friday. The goal of the talks is to “set the stage for a resumption of direct negotiations on all permanent status issues as soon as possible.” An Arab League foreign ministers meeting on Saturday in Cairo endorsed the talks, giving Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas the political cover to resume negotiations. The Palestinian’s own executive committee is expected to make a decision on the matter next week.
Israel has agreed to discuss “all core issues” – including Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem, according to The Jerusalem Post. “We are willing to discuss the core issues in the framework of the proximity talks, but it has to be only a preliminary discussion,” an Israeli official said. U.S. special envoy George Mitchell is expected to return to Israel early this week to mediate the talks.
The United States has already made concessions in order to help bring the two parties together. Speaking to reporters, Abbas said that the Obama administration “promised him it would work to prevent any provocative Israeli moves during the negotiations.” Indeed, the U.S. indicated that if Israel proceeds with the construction of housing units in Jerusalem, the United States would abstain from, rather than veto, a resolution in the United Nations Security Council condemning the move. The U.S. has historically used its veto to thwart international resolutions concerning Israel.
The PA, for its part, is also putting the pressure on Israel. President Abbas told reporters that if peace talks fail to create a Palestinian state, “the Arabs will go to the UN Security Council to get recognition.” Indeed, according to news sources last week, the PA is aiming to secure a new UN Security Council Resolution that would update the UN’s 1967 Resolution 242 and provide for the establishment of a state.
The suspicion between all involved parties – Israel, the PA and the U.S. – does not bode well for peace talks. Indeed, that the current administration promises to prevent “provocative” Israeli moves before the talks even began is a foreboding sign. Either way, U.S. moves such as these will not affect the outcome, as the talks’ success will largely rest on final status issues that have plagued peace negotiations for years.