Israeli and Palestinian leaders to be invited to US for peace talks
Palestinian officials expect to hear from the US later today inviting both them and the Israelis to participate in formal direct talks.
"We are waiting to see the formulation of the American invitation draft. Our position remains that we don't want preconditions," an Israeli official said.
A Palestinian official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "If the statement meets what we are calling for, we will say yes of course (Reuters)."
There seems to be a divide over who is the legitimate power broker in the negotiations. While Israel has put its faith in the US, the Palestinian Authority is looking to the Quartet for its direction. In the end, I would have to believe the US will push the authority of the Middle East peace talks toward the Quartet since they (US) already play a significant role in this world body. They also wouldn't want to delegitimize the power of the Quartet. This would not be looked upon favorably by the Muslim community and would be viewed as another attempt at US favoritism toward Israel.
The first direct meeting will be held in the US and hosted by President Obama on September 2nd. The original timeframe for completion of the talks was twenty-four months, but a new draft statement by the Quartet states that twelve months is now the new target date for having the first phase of a Palestinian state in place. This will likely include provisions for borders, statehood, and refugees right of return. The question of dividing Jerusalem will be dealt with sometime into the future.
In one year from now, the Palestinian Authority government intends to have established all the attributes of statehood, raising speculation that it might declare independence should talks fail to make progress on a "final status" treaty (Reuters).
I assume there will be setbacks going into the talks, but eventually peace will come. If direct negotiations can get underway before the September 26th moratorium on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank is due to end, that would make it difficult for Israel not to extend it. However, the last thing Israel wants is for renewed settlement building to be the reason why direct talks break down. I look for Israel to extend the settlement freeze as the deadline gets closer.
Tomorrow, Russia will begin the process of bringing Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor online. Russian officials claim that the International Atomic Energy Agency will be in full control of the present and future operation of the plant. They also assure that no fuel will be siphoned off for other uses.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton announced a few days ago, once the reactor was loaded and activated, Israel's window of opportunity to stop Iran's nuclear weapons plan would be closed. I don't necessarily agree. For one, I don't believe Israel or anyone else in the intelligence community views the Bushehr reactor as a major piece of Iran's nuclear weapons program. Once it's all said and done, it will have likely served as nothing more than an international diversion. Two, many believe that Iran's true nuclear program is well hidden and further along than many believe...including the US. As you may know, the US has convinced Israel that Iran is still at least one year away from developing a nuclear bomb.
Has the US been fooled regarding Iran's nuclear weapons progress? Will Israel's window of opportunity be gone after the Bushehr reactor becomes operational?
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