Media Mention of ATFP in Reuters - September 3, 2010 - 12:00am

Israeli and Palestinian
leaders held their first direct peace talks in 20 months on
Thursday and agreed to meet every two weeks to try to settle
the six-decade conflict within a year.

Among the many obstacles are the deep divisions among the
Palestinians and the Israelis themselves and the possibility of
violence by hardliners who may wish to disrupt the effort.

Here are some questions and answers about the talks.


The only tangible result was an agreement by Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas to meet again Sept. 14-15 in the Middle East and then
every two weeks thereafter.

According to former Sen. George Mitchell, the U.S. special
envoy for Middle East peace, the two sides believe they should
start by trying to reach a framework agreement, rather than a
fully elaborated peace treaty.


It is typically a short document that would lay out the
basic political compromises on the core issues such as borders,
the future of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees
that the two sides would have to make to reach a peace

Rather than specifying precise borders, however, such a
document might describe the percentage of West Bank land that
Israel captured during the 1967 Middle East war that the
Palestinians would get to establish a state.

It might also say whether Israel would swap other territory
so as to ensure the Palestinians end up with the equivalent of
100 percent of the land Israeli forces seized in 1967.

The document, which analysts said could be only a few pages
long, might also sketch out the treatment of Jerusalem, which
both sides claim, as well as to what extent, if at all,
Palestinian refugees might have a right live in Israel itself.


The biggest issue will be what Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu will do about Israel's partial moratorium on
new construction in the West Bank when it expires on Sept. 26.

All sides agree this will be a major challenge and a litmus
test for whether the current peace effort is serious.

Abbas has threatened to pull out of the talks if settlement
activity resumes, while Netanyahu's coalition rests on the
support of small pro-settler parties eager to build more.

"From now until the 26th, the issue of settlements is going
to continue to dominate the discussion," said Ghaith al-Omari,
a former Palestinian Authority official now at American Task
Force on Palestine, a Washington-based advocacy group.

"There is an interest, and there has been a push, to move
it from the public eye -- from something that is to be
negotiated and discussed in the press -- into something to be
worked out within the negotiating room," he said.


Timing. Mitchell noted that previous U.S. presidents,
including George W. Bush and his predecessor Bill Clinton,
sought to craft a peace deal in their final year in office.

Obama, in contrast, took up the issue during his first week
on the job, naming Mitchell as his special envoy two days after
his inauguration.

"They ran out of time at the end," Mitchell said, without
citing any of Obama's predecessors by name. "Neither success
nor failure is predetermined or guaranteed, but it isn't going
to be because time ran out at the end."

Martin Indyk, a veteran U.S. official who held key jobs on
Middle East peace at the National Security Council and the
State Department under former U.S. President Bill Clinton --
said the talks seemed to be off to a good start.

"What you have is something consistent with trying to move
quickly -- a framework agreement rather than a comprehensive
agreement and the leaders taking the lead on the negotiations
rather leaving to the negotiators to bat it back and forth,"
said Indyk, who is now director of foreign policy at the
Brookings Institution think tank. "It's an auspicious


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