Bloomberg News

Palestinian Leader Says Time ‘Not Ripe’ for Mideast Peace Talks

October 20, 2011

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said there is little chance for a prompt renewal of peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis that the Obama administration seeks.

“My own assessment” is that “conditions are not ripe at this juncture for a meaningful resumption of talks,” Fayyad told a Washington audience yesterday.

He made his remarks as the U.S. and its allies in the so- called Quartet -- the United Nations, the European Union and Russia -- are trying to restart talks between the two sides to head off a Palestinian push for statehood recognition at the UN.

Quartet envoys will hold separate meetings in Jerusalem with Israelis and Palestinians on Oct. 26 to discuss ways to restart the talks, State Department spokesman Mark Toner announced on Oct. 18. Those meetings would occur three days after a self-imposed deadline the Quartet set on Sept. 23 for initial talks “between the parties.”

The Quartet talks have been spurred by a U.S. desire to circumvent the Palestinian effort at the UN, which it opposes. Fayyad acknowledged the friction this has caused, expressing disappointment with the failure of U.S.-brokered peace talks that led to the Palestinian bid at the UN.

“Our relations with the United States are going through a period of strain, if I may be frank in characterizing them, against the recent backdrop of activities involving the United Nations,” Fayyad said at a gala held by the American Task Force on Palestine, a non-profit group that advocates for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

A Shared Conviction

Fayyad said that, while Palestinian leaders are committed to a negotiated settlement, the Palestinian people have watched negotiations continue “for nearly 15 years without any signs of productivity or promise of success anytime soon.”

That has led to “disappointment and indeed disillusionment” that U.S.-brokered talks can produce “an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and, for us Palestinians, at long last to have that opportunity to live as free people,” Fayyad said.

The Obama administration made improving relations with the Arab world and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a cornerstone of its foreign policy. Peace talks began in September 2010 and quickly foundered when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas insisted Israel freeze construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank before talks could continue. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the demand.

‘Some Concerns’

Israel earlier this month accepted the Quartet initiative. Netanyahu said Oct. 2 that “Israel has some concerns” and called on the Palestinian Authority to “enter into direct negotiations without delay.”

Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said Israel must freeze settlement construction and accept the West Bank’s pre-1967 boundaries before talks can resume.

Fayyad said Israel’s settlements and its lack of specific concessions must be addressed for any talks to succeed. He questioned, for example, what Netanyahu means when he talks about a Palestinian state.

Fayyad also said the political process does little to address Israeli actions that harm chances for a viable two-state solution. He mentioned the Israeli decision to build 2,610 new housing units south of east Jerusalem in a way that cuts it off from the rest of the West Bank.

“Actions on the ground continue to take place on the Israeli side in a manner that is inconsistent with the shared objective of a Palestinian state,” Fayyad said.

The efforts to cut Palestinians off from Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital, won’t work, Fayyad said. “There is not going to be a solution that is acceptable to Palestinians that does not include east Jerusalem as a capital,” he said.

He warned that if Israeli settlement construction subverts the possibility for a two-state solution, the Palestinians may give up on that goal and shift their attention to a “struggle for equal voting rights.”

--Editors: Jim Rubin, Peter Hirschberg

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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