The U.S. administration will not put a lot of effort into the upcoming indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, opting instead to focus on the November Congressional elections, according to an internal Foreign Ministry report that was distributed to Israeli diplomatic missions abroad.
The classified report claims that in the preparatory discussions for the Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks the Obama administration adopted positions that are closer to Palestinian demands.
“The recent American statements point to the adoption of wording in line, even if partially and cautiously, with Palestinian demands in regard to the framework and structure of negotiations,” the report stated. “Still, the [U.S.] administration is making sure to avoid commenting on its position on core issues.”
U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell arrived in Israel last night for what is expected to be a final series of talks before the official announcement of the resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in an indirect format.
The proximity talks are to continue for four months. They will involve Mitchell going between Jerusalem and Ramallah, relaying messages and responses, or, alternatively, talks in either Washington or Europe.
Mitchell met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak last night and is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday. Mitchel is slated to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Monday in hopes of announcing the resumption of talks immediately afterward, Monday night.
The Central Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization is expected to meet in Ramallah Sunday to confirm the Palestinians’ return to negotiations.
A senior American official told Haaretz Saturday that the talks are expected to resume within days.
“We told the parties that our goal is to achieve two states for two peoples through negotiations,” the U.S. official said. “If there are obstacles we will try to help to overcome them and to propose our own ideas, and if we think one of the parties is not meeting its obligations we will say so.”
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is due to arrive in Israel Monday afternoon. The Obama administration hopes to be in a position to announce the resumption of talks before his arrival so that his visit can concentrate on U.S. relations with Israel and with the PA rather than on bridging the gap between Israel and the Palestinians.
Biden is expected to present the administration’s broad vision of the peace process and to avoid focusing on the details of the conflict.
The report released recently by the Foreign Ministry’s center for political research, which focuses on strategic foreign policy, is less optimistic about the chances for progress in the next round of peace talks. The document was delivered to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and to Israeli diplomatic missions abroad several days ago.
According to the report Washington is aware of the domestic political problems faced separately by both Netanyahu and Abbas and has decided to concentrate on achieving the limited goal of restarting the negotiations. The peace talks will not be at the top of the Obama administration’s agenda, the report claims.
“In our assessment the administration will focus in the coming year on domestic issues that are expected to determine the results of the Congressional elections,” the report’s authors wrote. “As such, and due to the difficulties to date in achieving significant gains in the peace process we can assume that the administration’s focus on this issue will be limited and will predominantly remain in the hands of Mitchell’s teams.”
According to the report, Washington can be expected to portray the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian talks as a domestic and international achievement, in the hope of creating an atmosphere that is conducive to direct negotiations between the parties on the core issues.
The authors of the report also predict that the administration will avoid taking any position that suggests disagreement with Israel, because of the support that Israel enjoys among both parties in Congress.