Media Mention of Hussein Ibish in Politico - March 17, 2010 - 12:00am

Middle East Peace Envoy George Mitchell issued a statement from Israel today which on its face seemed a quiet victory wave on achieving agreement for Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks over the weekend. But a former Israeli official reading the statement interprets it differently, to suggest they haven't agreed on what they are going to be talking about indirectly. While an American Palestinian expert says the indirect proximity talks provide a bridging mechanism to potentially get the parties back to direct negotiations.

"I’m pleased that the Israeli and Palestinian leadership have accepted indirect talks," Mitchell said in a statement today. "We've begun to discuss the structure and scope of these talks and I will return to the region next week to continue our discussions. As we've said many times, we hope that these will lead to direct negotiations as soon as possible. We also again encourage the parties, and all concerned, to refrain from any statements or actions which may inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks."

"The text indicates that he will NOT announce anything while Biden is here," the former Israeli official interprets.

"There will be a generic statement on the sides's 'willingness' to participate in 'indirect talks' but nothing on terms of reference, [specific] issues etc.," the former Israeli official interpreted. "Bulls***."

But the American Task Force for Palestine's Hussein Ibish says the indirect talks provide a bridging mechanism that could yield direct final status negotiations the Obama administration has long sought to get relaunched.

"I think they're going to be talking about how to resume full, direct negotiations," Ibish says. "The main topics [of the indirect proximity talks] will be terms of reference, schedule of topics, timeframe, and all that kind of thing."

"The Palestinians want specifics," Ibish continued. "The Israelis want the vagueness. That's a difficult gap to bridge. Also, the Palestinians are very keenly aware of the dangers of a complete meltdown at the diplomatic level and want and need some assurances that this will not be a complete catastrophe. ....Proximity talks allow them, and everyone to ease back into the negotiating process with some political protection."


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