A First Step: Re-launching Direct Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians

The delegations have departed, the speeches have been delivered, and the talks have begun. Re-launching direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians was of course a first step, but the meetings this week at the White House and the State Department went quite well, and represent a good foundation for progress.

As Senator Mitchell said, the tone was constructive and serious, and the two leaders began to establish a positive relationship. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas met for nearly two hours one-on-one at the State Department on September 2nd. They talked very frankly and openly with each other, and got a sense of each other’s seriousness of purpose.

The two sides both believe they can conclude these negotiations within one year and will start by working on a framework agreement, which will outline the major trade-offs each side would make on the core issues of the conflict, and enable them to reach a full peace treaty. They agreed to meet every two weeks to do so. The goal is clear: to end the conflict with two states living in peace and security.

As the President said to the leaders at the White House on September 1st, the United States will put its full weight behind this effort, and we will play an active and sustained role. As we do so, our commitment to Israel’s security will remain unwavering, especially in the face of brutal terrorist attacks like the ones we saw last week near Hebron and Ramallah.

But ultimately it will be up to the parties to take the difficult decisions, to deal with the history and passion of this conflict, and reach an agreement. We know the hard work is just beginning, we know there are moments that will test our resolve, but we also know that the people of the region have suffered for too long and that peace is possible. The road ahead will be difficult but last week was a good start.

Prem Kumar is the National Security Council Director for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs

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