WASHINGTON, DC (JWN and agencies)–Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz, in the midst of high-level talks in Washington, issued an upbeat forecast Thursday that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would resume shortly and take place without preconditions.
“I believe that there is an opportunity to restart negotiations,” Mofaz told Israel Radio from the US capital. “I have a firm basis for believing this will happen in the near future.”
However, Mofaz’s statement came in utter contrast to a declaration Sunday by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that the peace process is “clinically dead.” Abbas characteristically blamed this on Israel, telling a conference in Ramallah that “the ball is in the Israeli court.”
Analysts say that Abbas’s Ramallah rhetoric could merely be a smokescreen for the PA’s own high-level Washington talks, taking place at the same time as Mofaz’s visit between PLO senior negotiator Saeb Erekat and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On the other hand, a PA official told The Jerusalem Post that Erekat was planning on reiterating the Palestinian conditions for resuming peace talks: a halt to settlement construction and recognition of the pre-June 1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state.
Mofaz told Israel Radio that the Palestinians preconditions have become a roadblock to resuming talks. “Over the past three years the Palestinians have been placing preconditions on restarting the negotiations, and Israel and the US were mistaken in allowing them to do so,” Mofaz said.
The main thrust of Mofaz’s visit appeared to be lobbying for tougher sanctions against Iran, given the deadlock in talks between world powers and the Islamic Republic. Mofaz met with members of Congress and with Clinton on the issue.