In Amman on Friday night, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that peace talks were to resume between Israel and the Palestinians. A day later, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed Kerry’s declaration noting that resuming negotiations was not only important “on its own” but, “ it is important in light of the challenges we face, especially from Iran and Syria,” as well.
Netanyahu made sure to stress that his decision to re-engage with the stubborn Palestinians was to serve two strategic Israeli interests; One being undermining the creation of a bi-national state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River and the second being the thwarting of the creation of an Iranian-backed terrorist state along Israel’s border.
Kerry announced that talks would begin some time “within the next week or so” in Washington. This would appear to be a major boon to Kerry who just completed his sixth trip to the region since March with little to show for his efforts until now.
“We know that the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead,” Kerry said. “Today, however, I am hopeful. I’m hopeful because of the courageous leadership shown by President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Both of them have chosen to make difficult choices here, and both of them were instrumental in pushing in this direction.”
Additionally, International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Saturday that Israel has agreed to release a number of prisoners, a steadfast Palestinian demand for resumption of talks. Steinitz also mentioned that for now, the PA has agreed to cease any attempts to achieve statehood through unilateral action at the United Nations.
Reports out of the Prime Minister’s office are claiming that no settlement freeze, another emphatic Palestinian demand, will be implemented.
In response to a vast amount of criticism he has received from the Israeli right, PM Netanyahu stated at the opening of his cabinet meeting on Sunday “”I don’t think that decisions like these are possible to make with one coalition or another, but have to be brought to the nation for its decision, ” implying any deal would have to be approved by a popular vote. He also stressed that the Palestinians would need to make concessions in order to ensure Israeli security and to protect Israel’s vital interests.
Netanyahu closed his address with a comparison of what his attitude would be in these negotiations to the actions much-beloved former-Prime Minister Menachem Begin, saying, “He attacked Saadam Hussein’s nuclear reactor in Iraq, and history shows how important that was,and he also did not hesitate to act against terrorist concentrations in our midst, in Lebanon and elsewhere. We are committed in the same manner to peace and security.”