The prelude to peace talks is ending, and the main event may be days away.
At a Tuesday press conference, Secretary of State John Kerry said Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to launch formal peace talks in the next two weeks as a part of a nine-month effort to resolve the territorial conflict once and for all.
Kerry also announced that all final-status issues (borders, land swaps, right of return for Palestinian refugees, the future of Jerusalem, etc) are on the table without preconditions, and that the forthcoming meetings would take place in Israel or the Palestinian territories.
"While I understand the skepticism, I don’t share it, and I don’t think we have time for it," he said. "I firmly believe the negotiators … can make peace for one simple reason. Because they must."
The announcement follows meetings between an American team led by longtime Middle East hand Martin Indyk, Israelis, represented by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and lawyer Yitzhak Molcho, and Palestinians, represented by Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat and economist Mohammad Shtayyeh, on Monday night and Tuesday morning.
And if you’re looking for more details about the forthcoming talks in the newspapers, you’re wasting your time, Kerry said. "No one should consider reports reliable unless they come from me," he said, noting that he’ll be the only one authorized to comment on negotiations in the next nine months.
Livni and Erekat flanked Kerry during his announcement and both delivered optimistic remarks.
"I’m delighted that all final-status negotiations are on the table," said Erekat. "It’s time for the Palestinians to live in peace, freedom and dignity within their own sovereign state."
Livni added: "I believe that history is not made by cynics, it is made by realists who are not afraid to dream. Let us be these people."
Livni, of the liberal Hatnua party, who led negotiations during the last round of peace talks four years ago, has in the past favored a softer line than her boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Still, she pointedly praised him Tuesday for his decision to free a batch of Palestinian prisoners in the next several months, which she called a "courageous act of leadership by Prime Minister Netanyahu." The line provoked a quip by Robert Danin, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations: "Secretary Kerry appears to be on the verge of one major breakthrough: peace between Tzipi Livni and PM Netanyahu!" One of the byproducts of Livni and Netanyahu’s rocky relationship was the decision to send Molcho, a Netanyahu loyalist, to Washington alongside her.
Without a doubt, the path ahead is strewn with landmines as Israelis and Palestinians untangle a range of thorny issues including how to divide Jerusalem, where to carve up borders and what do with Palestinian refugees.
Today’s announcement caps a less than 48-hour visit to Washington by the negotiators that including a meeting with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday morning and a Monday night iftar dinner at the White House.
"The time has come for lasting peace," said Kerry. "I’m convinced that we can get there."
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| Exclusive |