Twelve months to find solutions for a conflict which evolved over six decades: That is the timetable for the latest US-backed direct peace talks just launched between Israel and the Palestinians.
The parties are scheduled to meet at two-week intervals. They both say that the goal is to create an independent Palestinian state to exist peacefully adjacent with Israel.
Euronews asked the Palestinian government’s media director, Ghassan el-Khatib, for his view on how the next 12 months could go.
Jalel Askri, Euronews: Mr. Ghassan el-Khatib, there is a big contrast between the positions of President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Abbas talks about international legitimacy being a basis for the negotiations while Netanyahu brings out painful concessions both sides must make. How can these positions be bridged?
Ghassan el-Khatib: There are three ways to bridge these positions. The first is to give the international community an active role — whether represented by the United States or the Quartet. The second is to encourage the two sides, to help them move forward. For example, Israel has security concerns; perhaps the international community can help there by providing international protection or international forces, to limit the fears of the Israelis. The third way is this: the international community must oblige the two parties to trust each other, for instance by bringing pressure to end the settlement policy, because that undermines trust.
Euronews: There is no consensus between the different Palestinian factions on these negotiations. The situation is the same on Israel’s side. Are these negotiations sunk before they’ve begun?
Ghassan el-Khatib: Ordinarily, there is no official position in the world which allows a consensus. But if the negotiations advance, it would let us strengthen the parties’ official positions, and these do try to move the talks forward.
Euronews: Do you think the two sides will have reached an agreement within one year, as the US administration hopes?
Ghassan el-Khatib: It is possible. It is not impossible. If the intentiontions are good and if the positions during the talks and behaviour on the ground are favourable and encouraging and if the international community plays an encouraging role.
Euronews: Are there any alternatives if the negotiations fail?
Ghassan el-Khatib: Yes, there are other choices if the talks fail, in spite of the fact that we Palestinians give priority to realising our objectives and the objectives of the international community represented by a negotiated two-state solution. And by next year we will be ready for independence, ready to be governed by ourselves.