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Entries in Omar Suleiman (2)


Israel-Palestine: US Push with "Guarantee Letters" for Agreement within 2 Years

georgeMitchellOn Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mideast special envoy George Mitchell will meet Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

Following the meetings in Washington, Mitchell will travel on Sunday to Paris and Brussels for meetings with his counterparts from the "Quartet" of Middle East peacemakers (the US, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia )and European diplomats before a forthcoming visit to the region.

UPDATED Israel: Loyalty, Lives, and the Arab Population

During his Europe visit, Mitchell expected carry letters of "guarantees" outlining the US position to both Palestine and Israel. According to these "guarantees", Washington will consider the Palestinian demand for a return to the pre-1967 borders s and a full halt to expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jeruslaem. Israel's concern over retention of sovereignty over some of its settlements and a limited "right of return" of Palestinians into Israel will also be guaranteed by Washington.

On Wednesday evening, Mitchell appeared on the US Public Broadcasting System. In the transcript of the interview, this passage jumps out. Referring to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's recent statement that there could be no peace within two years, Mitchell said:
We think that the negotiation should last no more than two years, once begun we think it can be done within that period of time. We hope the parties agree. Personally I think it can be done in a shorter period of time.

Mitchell added that Israel also must advance negotiations with Syria.

Israel-Palestine Analysis: Change" in the Air Over Peace Talks?

isr-pal peaceFollowing claims that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is close to finalizing an agreement with the Obama Administration for peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, the PA gave its approval for such talks this weekend.

One PA official stated that Netanyahu was now apparently ready to recognize the pre-1967 borders as the basis for future talks and was ready to swap territory between the two countries. He added, "We're beginning to hear new things from Israel. For the first time an Israeli government is willing to negotiate with us on the basis of the 1967 borders, and this is an encouraging move."

"Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians could be relaunched as early as February," added another PA official in Ramallah.

Meanwhile, Egyptian sources told the Cairo-based daily Al-Ahram on Monday that Barack Obama's administration will put forward a plan whereby Israel would commit itself to the establishment of a Palestinian state within two years of the launch of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

On Monday, at the press conference following her meeting with Qatar Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised greater commitment to achieving a settlement between the PA and Israel:
We know that the Palestinians deserve a state to fulfill their aspirations. The Israelis deserve security to live peacefully side by side with their Palestinian neighbors. The Arab nations have made a very positive contribution in the peace initiative of the Arab League and others. So we’re going to be even more committed this year, and we’re starting this new year with that level of commitment and we’re going to follow through and hopefully we can see this as a positive year in this long process.

On the same day, while addressing lawmakers from his Likud party, Netanyahu said that he sensed "a change in the air":
In recent weeks I have felt that there is a certain change in the air, and I hope that this will mature, allowing the start of the diplomatic process.

We are serious in our intentions to reach a peace agreement.

Israel is ready for a peace process with the Palestinian Authority, without preconditions.

Netanyahu, however, added the caution, "Diplomatic plans said to be in my name that have appeared in the media have no truth."

There is also the standing obstacle of the declaration by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas that there will be no peace talks unless there is a complete freeze on Israeli settlements, both in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Following his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Abbas repeated,
We have said and are still saying that at the time when settlement construction is stopped and the international legitimacy is recognized, we will be ready to resume the negotiations."

Our stance is known from the past and our stance remains the same - and in agreement with our brothers in Egypt - which is that we have no objections to negotiations or meetings in principle and we do not set conditions.

And then there was the complication of Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman hosted Quartet peace envoy Tony Blair and stated that reaching a final-status agreement within two years were unrealistic:
It is important to hold an honest, open dialogue with the Palestinians without sowing delusions that are disconnected with reality and that will only lead to violence and frustration. It is not possible to reach a full agreement within two years.

This is not a realistic goal. We need to begin direct talks without committing to any timeframe.

On Monday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly was on the 'silent side' but, at least, was "hopeful":
QUESTION: There’s an unsourced report in the Israeli Hebrew language daily Ma’ariv, and there are a bunch of other reports out there elsewhere, talking about the possibility of an imminent resumption of peace talks between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas under an American plan.

MR. KELLY: I certainly hope so. I hope it’s before that. But whether it’s realistic or not, I can’t say.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.


MR. KELLY: Well, first of all, we’re not going to discuss any of the private correspondence or private discussions we have had with either side, including with the Israelis. I mean, you know what our goal is. Our goal is to get the two sides to agree to sit down and resume the talks, and so all of our efforts really are really directed toward that. And it wouldn't – I mean, it’s not appropriate for me to talk about what may or may not have been in any kind of private correspondence.

QUESTION: But are you on the verge of re-launching the resumption of talks?

MR. KELLY: I hope so. But I don’t have any information to announce on that.

QUESTION: I think we’re talking about the same report here, which says that the U.S.’s latest proposal envisions a Palestinian state within two years. The Israelis say that’s unrealistic. Is this a real report? I mean, is it coming from you guys?

MR. KELLY: I don’t really have any information about the specifics of that particular report.

QUESTION: Is it realistic, though, to think that the Palestinians could have a state within a couple of years?

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was also still "hopeful" about the future. He told reporter following the meeting between Mubarak and Abbas:
Our position is that the [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's] ideas are taking the Israeli position forward.

This is a protracted process and needs patience, clarity and prudence so that the Palestinians do not find themselves in a difficult position.

Gheit and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman are going to be in Washington and the U.S. Mideast special envoy George Mitchell is going to be in the Middle East next week. Abbas' last words were that he would postpone any decision on whether or not to restart the talks until he sees what happens during Friday's visit to Washington by the two senior Egyptian officials.

The story continues without a conclusion: is there any "change" except in rhetoric?