Daily Israel Report

Is Israel Negotiating with US or with PA?

Talks between Israel and the PA for a new Arab state have turned into a dialogue with the US. An American reporter asked, “What is the real goal?”
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 6/25/2009, 3:28 PM

Flash 90

The U.S. State Department had a tough time this week explaining to a reporter why the Obama administration is talking with Israel about the creation of a Palestinian Authority state instead of letting the two parties themselves negotiate.

A journalist asked spokesman Philip Crowley, “The problem here is that it seems to be that the negotiation that’s going on is between the United States and Israel…. The U.S. and Israel are friends and allies and there isn’t a – there is no need for a peace deal between – the need here is for a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, not for an agreement between the U.S. and Israel over settlements. Is that correct?"

Crowley tried to explain that one of the first priorities of U.S. President Barack Obama since he took office has been to advance the peace process.

In answer to persistent questioning over the issue of an agreement on construction in Judea and Samaria being worked out between Israel and the PA and not the U.S., he relied, “Our interest is to facilitate the parties to restart a negotiation that leads to a comprehensive agreement. Again, as [U.S. Middle East envoy] George Mitchell said, we want to get back into a formal negotiation. And we are working hard right now to create the conditions that would allow that to happen. We recognize that positions held by Israel today and positions held by the Palestinians today may be at odds.”

Mitchell and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cancelled their planned meeting in Paris this week in order “to clarify” the issue of building for Jews in Judea and Samaria. The State Department also told a reporter this week that the building freeze desired by President Obama also applies to large Jewish neighborhoods near the heart of the capital.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is to meet with Mitchell next week, and Thursday’s announcement by the IDF, which is halting counterterrorist operations in four major PA cities, is considered a move to appease the Obama administration.