Worthy Christian News » Israel-Palestinian Conflict » Are Renewed Talks Over Truce or Temple Mount?
With violence continuing and an election battle heating up back in Israel, US officials on Tuesday held preliminary discussions with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Washington aimed at securing a cease-fire and paving the way for resumption of final-status talks. Israeli media, however, is filled with talk of new Israeli concessions in Jerusalem.
At the Washington "dialogue," Israeli delegates were expressing cautious optimism about restarting formal negotiations, while the Palestinian team was not hopeful of movement. US mediators Dennis Ross and Aaron Miller have been meeting separately with the delegations in a round that should break up late Thursday or early Friday for the start of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Clinton is also inviting the delegations for three-way talks at the White House. The discussions are being carried out under a heavy media blackout.
"We are [t]here to prevent another costly, all-out war," Barak told an awards ceremony in Jerusalem on Tuesday. "We won't sign an agreement at any price, but we will see if there is an opportunity for peace."
Local press reports continue to claim the Palestinians have "received" new Israeli offers on the status of Jerusalem, which would be exchanged for deferment of the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Even though he has resigned and most Israelis do not feel he has a mandate to hold talks at this time, Barak reportedly has tabled new concessions on Jerusalem that include giving up all the Old City, including the Temple Mount, but excepting the Western Wall and Jewish Quarter.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami denied that proposals on the Temple Mount had been raised with the Palestinians, but allowed that other neighborhoods in the Old City were discussed. Ben-Ami said earlier this week that Israel is more of a "hostage" to the Temple Mount than sovereign there.
Ben-Ami noted yesterday that Palestinian de facto control over the Temple Mount was not a point of contention, and the focus would be on how to come to symbolic agreements on the Temple Mount and Palestinian refugees that would not necessarily be implemented. Some reports say the Palestinians are finally ready to include language acknowledging a past "Jewish connection to the Temple Mount."
Israeli Cabinet Minister Yuli Tamir, a member of the delegation, affirmed a "historic moment of very painful compromise in Jerusalem is approaching." MA'ARIV reports the Barak government has already made plans to "spin" the idea to the public by claiming that the Palestinians already have de-facto control of the Temple Mount.
Palestinian cabinet minister Nabil Sha'ath told Palestinian radio yesterday that the "Palestinian delegation has clear instructions... Our goals are clear: the Intifada goes on. We have changed the rules of the game, created a new situation, by our heroism and our sacrifices for the sake of the homeland. And everyone understands that," Sha'ath said. He reiterated the Palestinians' final status demands: a return to pre-1967 borders, Palestinian sovereignty over east Jerusalem including the Old City, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
The PLO's top figure in Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini, said the two sides are very close to reaching a final peace agreement. "It is not far from reality," claimed Husseini. "It is very close. But it needs courage and hard work." He confirmed Ben-Ami's comments that Israel is trying to avoid the word "sovereignty" regarding the Temple Mount, while giving the Palestinians day-to-day control. He suggested calling the agreement "sovereignty but" - no archeological excavations and no changes in the status quo.
Saying that another earthquake can be expected at the site any year now, Husseini asked, "What would happen if the mosque were destroyed and Israel was still the sovereign power? If Israel agreed to let us rebuild the mosque, there would be a civil war within Israel. If she did not, there would be a religious war between Moslems and Jews."
On refugees, Husseini suggested there are alternatives to returning them to Israel and Palestinian Authority areas, such as compensation and an international passport. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, government officials were conferring today on the future of 350,000 Palestinian refugees which Lebanon does not want to keep on its territory if a peace agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.
Finally, Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, exiting from a meeting yesterday with King Abdullah II in Amman, said the Jordanian monarchy was uneasy over the Palestinian unrest and concerned that it could spread across the border. "The continuation of the intifada is something that concerns the king very much. It is causing Jordan economic and other ramifications. He would undoubtedly want to see an end to the intifada," Beilin told reporters. Abdullah gave Beilin a letter for Barak, reportedly expressing his desire to not only mediate with the Palestinians but with other Arab states.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.