The Middle East peace talks will resume today amidst renewed hope of a permanent peace, with President Obama last night urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders not to let the chance of peace "slip away" - warning that "this moment of opportunity may not soon come again".
The Middle East peace talks will resume today amidst renewed hope of a permanent peace, with President Obama last night urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders not to let the chance of peace “slip away” – warning that “this moment of opportunity may not soon come again”.
Isreali prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said there was a real chance for a “secure and durable” peace, “peace that will end the conflict with the Palestinians once and for all, that will last generations”; President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas said: “We do not want any blood to be shed, one drop of blood, on the part of the Israelis or the Palestinians… We want them to live as neighbors and partners forever. Let us sign an agreement, a final agreement, for peace and put an end to a very long period of struggle forever.”
President Obama said:
“We are but five men. Our dinner this evening will be a small gathering around a single table. Yet when we come together we will not be alone. We will be joined by the generations of those who have gone before and those who will follow.
“Do we have the wisdom and the courage to walk the path of peace?”
“The purpose of the talks is clear. These will be direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. These negotiations are intended to resolve all final status issues.
“The goal is a settlement negotiated between the parties that ends the occupation which began in 1967, and results in the emergence of an independent democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish state of Israel and its other neighbours
“We are under no illusions. Passions run deep. Each side has legitimate and enduring interests. Years of mistrust will not disappear overnight…
“After all, there’s a reason that the two state solution has eluded previous generations. This is extraordinarily complex and extraordinarily difficult. But we know that the status quo is unsustainable.”
However, fears persisit that peace may remain elusive, with the BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen explaining:
“President Obama has started what will be an intensive diplomatic push. He will have been pleased by what seemed to be a warm handshake between the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Even so, Mr Abbas is still insisting that Israel must stop building homes for Jews in the occupied Palestinian territories. Mr Abbas has threatened to walk out of the talks on the settlement issue. It’s not clear where the compromise will come from. Warm words alone won’t do it – but perhaps Mr Netanyahu’s were a start.
“There might not be room for many more failures. The conflict is changing. A religious war is now being grafted on what used to be fundamentally a competition for territory between two national movements.
“You can make deals with nationalists. It’s much harder with people who believe they’re doing God’s work.”
And in The Independent, Rupert Cornwell writes:
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“The roll-call of place names associated with such efforts since the end of the first Gulf War in 1991 is long: Madrid, Oslo, Wye, Sharm el-Sheikh, Camp David, Taba and most recently Annapolis. One thing, though, they have in common: failure. And so to Washington, September 2010.
“Just 24 hours after formally winding up the US combat mission in Iraq, Mr Obama yesterday began two days of intensive summitry with separate White House meetings: first with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, then with the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas…
“But Mr Obama’s determination is a two-edged sword. Yes, he is acting much earlier in his presidency than his two predecessors but that carries added risks of its own. Already, this president has clashed more publicly with an Israeli prime minister than any of his predecessors.
“But Mr Obama faces what could be a tricky re-election bid in 2012, in which he will not want to have added the powerful American Israel lobby to the list of his opponents…”