Israel’s Prime Minister has spelled out his opening position ahead of the new round of direct Middle East peace talks set to begin next week.
Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet that reaching a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority would be “difficult but possible”. He said Israel was coming to the table with a real desire for peace between the two peoples – but wanted to preserve its national interests, primarily security.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned the Quartet of Middle East peace brokers today(Sunday) that the Palestinians will pull out of the direct talks if Netanyahu’s pro-settler dominated government announces fresh construction in the West Bank when its ten-month moratorium runs out in three weeks.
In the West Bank, news of the talks has been welcomed with caution. Danny Dayan is head of the Settlers’ Council:
“We have to be very careful not to raise expectations too much. The timeframe, for instance, the one-year timeframe in my opinion is completely unrealistic, and even the goal, the goal of the establishment of a Palestinian state is unrealistic. It raises expectations and brings frustration when they are not fulfilled, and my fear is that in the Middle East frustration always leads to violence.”
And, while there is caution in the West Bank, in Gaza there is outright cynicism.
The Islamist group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, referred to the talks as “a new attempt to fool the Palestinian people after Annapolis”, referring to the formal restart of the US-brokered peace negotiations in 2007, after a seven-year freeze.