05/10/2010, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE – US
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Proximity talks already facing hurdles at the outset

The two sides trade jibes over settlement freeze in East Jerusalem. Israelis appear concerned and irritated over Obama’s position. “With ‘friends’” such as this, who needs enemies?”, writes Yedioth Ahronoth on its editorial page.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Indirect US-mediated talks between Israelis and Palestinians have already run into a few hurdles as soon as they started, with the two sides trading jibes. The process is also showing Israel’s concern and increasing irritation over US President Barack Obama, seen as less friendly than his predecessors. In fact, “With “friends” such as this,” wrote Israel’s largest newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on its editorial page, “who needs enemies?”

For the newspaper, Israel’s paramount issue, security, appears to have taken a backseat to that of settlements, especially in East Jerusalem. Conversely, the Palestinian Authority has already accused Israel of violating the terms for restarting the talks on their first day. Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, said the construction of 14 housing units for Jewish settlers in an East Jerusalem neighbourhood is a breach of those terms. An Israeli official immediately denied that Israel had given any such promise.

“The Israeli statement is an attempt to embarrass or challenge the US administration,” said Nimr Hammad, aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. For him, new settlement activity might be for a domestic audience but it flies in the face of a commitment made to the US envoy and is raising tensions.

In Israel, tensions are already running high. For Yedioth Ahronot, Obama is only asking Israel to make sacrifices. “For example, did Obama ask that the PLO, Fatah, or Hamas remove language from their respective charters, all of which call for the destruction of Israel? Did he suggest to Mahmoud Abbas that he should accept Israel’s right to be recognised as a Jewish state? Has he suggested the Imams, Mullahs and Clerics stop preaching vitriolic anti-Jewish sermons that are key contributors to the fomentation of terror attacks against Israel?

For the paper, “Obama vision of “peace” translates into Israel being taken apart one piece at a time, [. . .]. One can conclude that if Obama’s actions, and in some cases lack thereof, reflect his ‘commitment to Israel’s security’.”

For its part, The Jerusalem Post TV titled one of its reports “Palestinians believe time is on their side”. Arab News agrees.

“The Israelis may be mindful of the danger that if direct negotiations are not agreed upon by September, the Americans may seek to impose their own solution,” the Saudi English-language daily newspaper wrote. “That indeed is already the preferred position of the Palestinians. However, they know that they cannot reach this position unless they are seen to have deployed their best efforts in the indirect negotiations.”

“The same imperative applies to the Israelis. They will need a good excuse to escape from a process whose conclusion they do not want. That excuse could well be once again Hamas and the Gaza Strip. It was the Israeli assault on Gaza that brought the last talks to a juddering and bloody end.”

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