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January 10, 2012 5:18 pm

Israel and the PA: Second Round of Meetings in Amman

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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Tunnel to West Bank. Photo: Justin McIntosh

At a second meeting in as many weeks, on Monday, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators sat down together.  Following more than a year of jockeying, this second session held just six days after the first, is remarkable simply for it’s existence.

All parties involved appear to recognize the delicate balances in play.  Following the first session, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the talks an “important opportunity” in the attempt to restart full peace negotiations.  “We must take this chance,” he had told reporters after meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan.   The king is scheduled to meet President Barack Obama January 14 at the White House.

The United States is a member of the “Quartet, (with the European Union, the United Nations and Russia) the international coalition which has fostered efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.  The group has asked Israel and the Palestinian Authority to present “comprehensive proposals” on territory and security by Jan. 26.

On the interim Thursday, prior to the second round of meetings, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters “we are encouraged that they are both coming to the table, they are talking directly.”

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After Monday’s meeting, no comment was made by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry – the authorized source of public statements.  Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said a successful outcome of the talks required that “they must be allowed to be conducted with discretion.”

The current meetings have been called “exploratory sessions,” and are not regarded as “full-scale” negotiations.

Israeli construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem was cited by the PA as a cause of the breakdown of the last round of talks, in September of 2010. Israel has not renewed the building freeze, a consistent Palestinian Authority demand.

According to an anonymous Palestinian official, the PA says that unless there is a renewal of the construction freeze, and Israeli acceptance of the pre-1967 boundary lines as preconditions for full negotiations, the preliminary negotiations will end.  Both Israel and the Quartet have called for talks without preconditions.

Neither Yitzhak Molho, the Israeli envoy, nor Saeb Erekat, the lead Palestinian negotiator, have made public statements.  However, Avigdor Lieberman – Israel’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs – , speaking on Israel Radio on Monday said the Palestinians were “working to internationalize the conflict,” and attempting to “flee direct negotiations.”

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