The Washington Post

Israelis, Palestinians to launch talks aimed at peace deal, independent Palestinian state

Secretary of State John Kerry expressed hope for the success of peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators Tuesday. (The Washington Post)

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators shook hands Tuesday to resume long-stalled direct peace talks that Secretary of State John F. Kerry said will seek to give birth to an independent Palestinian state nine months from now.

The goal is ambitious and the history of failed talks daunting, Kerry said, but the consequences of not trying are worse. The United States will be a “facilitator,” he said, but he made clear that he will push both sides hard. He has already won concessions to get talks started after a lull lasting most of the past five years.

“Compromise doesn’t only mean giving up something or giving something away; reasonable, principled compromise in the name of peace means that everybody stands to gain,” Kerry said with the lead negotiators at his side. “Each side has a stake in the other’s success, and everyone can benefit from the dividends of peace.”

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian envoy Saeb Erekat will meet again within two weeks, either in Israel or the West Bank, Kerry said. It is not clear whether Kerry’s newly named chief envoy, veteran U.S. diplomat Martin Indyk, will attend.

The symbolic tableau of the Israeli and the Palestinian flanking the top U.S. diplomat closed two days of talks with Kerry, who has made the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority the signature effort of his tenure so far.

“It is time for the Palestinian people to have an independent, sovereign state of their own,” Erekat told reporters. “Palestinians have suffered enough.”

Livni shook Erekat’s hand and thanked Kerry for “not giving up” on the possibility of a peace agreement.

“We are hopeful, but we cannot be naive,” Livni said. “We owe it to our people to do everything we can for their security, with the goal of peace for future generations.”

Inaugural meetings were held in Washington on Monday night and Tuesday morning. President Obama and Vice President Biden also met briefly with the negotiators at the White House.

Obama has been far less visible than Kerry in U.S. efforts so far, but his imprimatur would be crucial to any potential settlement.

“Everyone involved here believes that we cannot pass along to another generation the responsibility for ending a conflict that is in our power to resolve in our time,” Kerry said.

Future generations, he said, “should not be expected to bear that burden. We should not leave it to them. They should not be expected to bear the pain of continued conflict or perpetual war.”

Kerry said all sides have agreed to directly address the “final-status issues” that have sunk past attempts at a deal, including the borders of a future Palestinian state, whether to establish a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, and the claims of Palestinians and their descendants to homes they left in what is now Israel.

Talks will go ahead at the negotiator level for now, with an eventual goal of direct talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Most meetings will be in the Middle East, with Kerry an occasional visitor.

The United States is expected to step in when bargaining gets particularly difficult, or should one side threaten to walk out.

The nine-month calendar represents the time the two parties have agreed in advance that they will stay at the table, a senior State Department official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide some detail about the plan for talks. While not a formal deadline, the quick time frame is meant to focus both sides on the hardest issues from the start.

It is also meant to forestall the renewal of Palestinian attempts to seek statehood recognition outside of negotiations, through membership in United Nations and other international bodies — almost certainly a deal-breaker for Israel.

The new effort, if it endures, would be the most substantive since 2008, in the waning months of President George W. Bush’s second term, when Israel and the Palestinians came within sight of a deal before talks collapsed. An Obama-led effort to revive negotiations fell apart after only a few meetings in 2010.

Kerry’s frequent warning that time is running out for a “two-state solution” is mostly a reference to the increasingly thorny challenge posed by the growth of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. In the past five years, the population of settlers in the West Bank has grown by about 20 percent, and pro-settler politicians have become major players in Israel’s government.

Israel has observed an unofficial moratorium on most new housing announcements while Kerry worked to restart talks, but building has continued on previously announced projects. The Palestinians agreed to shelve a return to the United Nations.

Powerful political constituencies in both Israel and the West Bank are opposed to talks, or at least deeply suspicious of the other side’s motives. And there will be strong political pull on both Netanyahu and Abbas to reverse course.

Anne Gearan is a national politics correspondent for The Washington Post.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
What can babies teach students?
Unconventional warfare with a side of ale
A veteran finds healing on a dog sled
Play Videos
A fighter pilot helmet with 360 degrees of sky
Is fencing the answer to brain health?
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
How a hacker group came to Washington
The woman behind the Nats’ presidents ‘Star Wars’ makeover
How hackers can control your car from miles away
Play Videos
Philadelphia's real signature sandwich
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Europe's migrant crisis, explained

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.