Abbas with Obama, Netanyahu
Abbas with Obama, NetanyahuIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas have agreed to meet every two weeks to continue negotiations for the creation of a PA state. The next meeting will take place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on September 14 and 15.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell plan to attend the Sharm el-Sheikh talks.

Netanyahu and Abbas met Thursday to begin U.S.-backed direct negotiations. The two held a closed-door meeting lasting two hours. According to Mitchell, the two agreed to come to an agreement within a year.

Prior to the meeting, both spoke at a news conference with U.S. President Obama, Jordan's King Abdullah, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Netanyahu called for “a secure and durable peace,” adding, “We don't seek a brief interlude between two wars. We don't seek a temporary respite between outbursts of terror. We seek a peace that will end the conflict between us once and for all.”

Creating peace will mean “an historic compromise,” he said.

Netanyahu warned against a peace deal that does not guarantee security. “We left Lebanon, and we got terror. We left Gaza, and we got terror once again. We want to ensure that territory we'll concede will not be turned into a third Iranian-sponsored terror enclave aimed at the heart of Israel – and may I add, also aimed at every one of us sitting on this stage,” he said.

Netanyahu has spoken of territorial compromise and said that reaching a deal would require “painful concessions” from both sides. He has not ruled out the possibility of a national referendum on any proposed accord with the PA.

His speech and that of Abbas promoted peace, but appeared to indicate possible points of contention. While Netanyahu spoke of security and of the need to fight terrorism, Abbas called again on Israel to freeze construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria. Netanyahu has said that the current Judea and Samaria construction freeze will not be extended after it ends on September 26.

Abbas also mentioned “the release of all our prisoners” as a vital part of a peace deal. Thousands of PA Arabs convicted of terrorism are imprisoned in Israel, including many convicted of murder. The PA has a minister, Issa Karake, whose job it is to support the prisoners and their families, and the PA provides its prisoners – including terrorist killers – with monthly stipends.

“It is time to end the occupation that started in 1967... The Palestinian people who insist on the rights and freedom and independence are most in need for justice, security, and peace, because they are the victim, the ones that were harmed the most from this violence,” Abbas stated.

As talks continue, Abbas will need to contend with serious opposition from within the PA. Several minority PA parties have opposed negotiations with Israel, as has Hamas, which won a majority in the PA parliament in the last elections. As Abbas and Netanyahu met Thursday, Hamas posted threats on its website, saying it plans to carry out terrorist attacks in major Israeli cities as well as in Judea and Samaria.