JERUSALEM, ISRAEL (Worthy News)– Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas have agreed to meet every two weeks to continue U.S. backed direct negotiations for the creation of a Palestinian state within a year despite serious differences that remain between the two sides.
The next scheduled meeting will take place on September 14 and 15 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell plan to attend the talks.
On Thursday, Netanyahu and Abbas met for two hours in a closed-door meeting to begin direct negotiations for peace. According to Mitchell, the two agreed to come to a peace agreement within a year.
ISRAEL WANTS PEACE
In a press conference yesterday, Netanyahu told Abbas, “I see in you a partner for peace. Together, we can lead our people to a historic future that can put an end to claims and to conflict.”
However, he stressed that a “true peace, a lasting peace, would be achieved only with mutual and painful concessions from both sides.”
LEGITIMACY AND SECURITY
Netanyahu identified “two pillars of peace” that were necessary for an agreement — “legitimacy and security”.
“Just as you expect us to be ready to recognize a Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people, we expect you to be prepared to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.” Netanyahu added that more than one million non-Jews live in Israel with full civil rights.
“I think this mutual recognition between us is indispensable to clarifying to our two people – our two peoples that the conflict between us is over.”
Netanyahu continued by reiterating that “security is the foundation of peace. Without it, peace will unravel. With it, peace can be stable and enduring.” Netanyahu pointed out the Iranian threat along with its proxies in Lebanon and Gaza. He also stressed the need to end terrorist attacks against Israel.
FINAL STATUS ISSUES
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said much has already been accomplished over the years and now was the time to address the “final status issues” of “Jerusalem, the settlements, the borders, security, water, and also releasing the detainees — in order to end the occupation that started 1967, the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and in order to create the state of Palestine that lives side by side with the state of Israel.”
Abbas continued by stating that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) had already recognized Israel in 1993. He pointed to a “document of mutual recognition” signed by late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and former PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
“And in this document, we give enough so – to show that our intentions are good, our intentions with respect to recognizing the state of Israel,” he added.
PLO REJECTS ISRAEL AS A JEWISH STATE
However, the previous night PLO Executive Committee member Wassel Abu Yousef told reporters in Ramallah that the “Palestinians reject the demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”
The PLO has never agreed to recognize Israel specifically as a Jewish state.
Last year in Bethlehem, Abbas’ Fatah faction of the PLO adopted a platform rejecting the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
PLO OUTLINES ITS POSITIONSA map illustrating a “territorial link connecting the West Bank and Gaza”
On Thursday, the PLO released a statement through its news agency Wafa outlining its vision for a peace agreement.
“Freedom means control of our borders” with the Palestinian government seated “in our historic capital” of Jerusalem. It stated that “Jerusalem does not belong to one faith or people.”
Along with East Jerusalem as its capital, the PLO reiterated its call for Palestinian refugees’ right of return, along with their “properties”, their “homes”, and the ability to choose how to exercise that right.
The PLO said that the borders of a Palestinian state must be the same as they stood before the 1967 Six Day War, including that of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Along with these borders, a “territorial link connecting the West Bank and Gaza is crucial to the integrity of the Palestinian state”, thus in effect dividing Israel.
The PLO claimed “the single greatest threat to a viable two-state solution, and hence, to a just and lasting peace” are the 170 Israeli settlements scattered across the West Bank.
HAMAS CLAIMS ABBAS ILLIGITIMATE PALESTINIAN LEADER
In Gaza, thousands of people marched and cheered the successful terrorist attacks in which Hamas claimed responsibility for the killing of four Israelis near Hebron on Tuesday and the wounding of another two Israelis near Ramallah on Wednesday.
Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar rejected any possibility of compromise or peace with Israel in a speech given in Gaza on Thursday. Zahar questioned the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and its leadership. He said, “Today marks the start of direct negotiations between someone who has no right to represent the Palestinian people and the brutal occupier, to provide a cover for Judaizing Jerusalem and stealing the land.”
Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades, said 13 armed groups have now agreed to cooperate in carrying out more effective attacks against Israel.
He further added, “we will not allow the [peace talks] to pass, the resistance will have its word.”
DESPITE DIFFICULT OBSTACLES U.S. REMAINS HOPEFUL
In a press conference Thursday, U.S. Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell acknowledged that the differences between the sides were “many,” “deep” and “serious” and that both sides would need to be willing to make “difficult concessions.”
But he said he believed Netanyahu and Abbas were “committed to doing what it takes to achieve the right result.”