Herb Keinon
The Jerusalem Post
December 8, 2011 - 1:00am

Both the US and the Quartet expect Israelis and Palestinians to meet in direct talks and exchange comprehensive proposals there on the issue of security and territory, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said Thursday.

Shapiro, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, said that this position has been made clear to both sides.

His comments are significant because the Palestinians have said in recent days that while they have presented the Quartet with comprehensive proposals, Israel has refused to do so - casting Israel in the role of peace obstructor.

Israel's position is that the comprehensive proposals that the Quartet first discussed in September, are to come about as result of negotiations between the sides, and not as result of the Quartet mediating between them. Shapiro's comments appear to support Israel's interpretation.

Quartet representatives are scheduled to return to Jerusalem next week for a third round of separate talks with Israel and the Palestinians since the Quartet - made up of the EU, US, Russia and UN - launched a framework on September 23rd designed to bring about a return to direct negotiations.

Regarding Iran, Shapiro said that there was "extraordinarily close cooperation" between Israel and the US on this matter and that this issue is discussed between the two sides more than any other subject. A nuclear Iran, he said, is "a real threat to Israeli security, ours and our allies', and that is why we are determined to prevent this from happening."

Shapiro would not directly address US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's comments during a closed meeting last Saturday at the Saban forum in Washington, during which she reportedly warned about threats to Israel's democracy. The ambassador did say, however, that "we believe Israel's an extremely vibrant democracy with very strong institutions, and that the US has 'confidence' in Israel's ability to work out the various issues on the agenda," such as proposed legislation on non-governmental organizations and the stiffening of libel laws.


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