With Israel now definitely heading into a campaign season, rumors are flying again that Prime Minister Ehud Barak is conducting secret negotiations with the Palestinian Authority in hopes of reaching an election-eve peace deal that will save his political career.
Speculation of secret talks was fueled when Arab papers reported in recent days that Turkey had taken the lead in mediating a channel of contacts between the two sides.
Gilead Sher, a senior aide and negotiator for Barak, told ARMY RADIO yesterday that negotiations were taking place through several channels to “end the violence and incitement, prevent terror attacks, and consider ways to renew the negotiations if all the above happens.”
Earlier in the day, Sher told THE JERUSALEM POST that a final-status agreement with the PA theoretically could be reached in the 60 days remaining before the prime ministerial election. Sher would neither confirm nor deny at the time that secret contacts were being maintained with the Palestinians, but characterized the framework of an agreement that was within grasp at Camp David as “still there.” He added, “The reality has changed a bit, the violence has erupted… but it is still possible.”
In the POST interview, Sher said that one of the lessons he has learned from the last two months of violence is that an agreement “will not be any kind of peace of hugging and kissing between the two peoples. It will not be a peace of love. It will be an attorneys’ agreement, with a lot of combined and inter-related obligations, with a lot of guarantees and assurances and stabilizers” that will lay the groundwork for the possibility of peaceful coexistence between two separate entities.
Meanwhile, outgoing US special Middle East envoy Dennis Ross trekked to Morocco yesterday for a meeting with PA chairman Yasser Arafat in one last attempt to ascertain whether or not he is ready and willing to make a deal. “Everyone knows Barak is willing,” said a US source. “The question is about Arafat.” Reports from Morocco today, however, indicate that the two failed to reach agreement over renewing the peace process. Palestinian spokesman Marwan Kanfani and US sources said that the meeting had not been successful, while Ross admitted there were difficulties.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.