Yesterday, September 2nd, marked the beginning of a new round of peace talks between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Israeli government in Washington. The talks are the first in 20 months.The groups, led by P.A. president, Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, were hosted by the Barak Obama’s U.S. government and made the trip with delegations including both Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, and King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Following a meeting including all parties, Abbas and Netanyahu continued talks for a further two hours, alone.
In speeches made after all meetings Netanyahu addresses the issue of the recent blood shed, and thanked President Abbas for condemning the actions of the al-Qassam Brigades. He went on to compare the the Israelis and Palestinians to the biblical story of the brothers, Isaac and Ishmael, found in the book of Genesis.
President Abbas continued, also speaking for his desires for peace, stating that the P.A. had made progress into finding the suspects involved in the recent shooting of settlers, and reminding Netanyahu that he would walk away from the peace talks if the settlement freeze construction, due to end on Friday, was not renewed.
U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, described the day’s events as “constructive”.
Other voices have been significantly less enthusiastic to the day’s events, with some remarking that while the talks are dominated by representatives from Fatah the talks can not be considered to legitimately represent the Palestinian public living within the Occupied Territories.
Fatah’s share of the legislative branch of the Palestinian Authority is currently 41%, with Hamas winning the largest proportion of the vote in the 2006 elections; 44%. Smaller parties have also raised concerns, with a group of left wing parties holding a protest rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Wednesday.
Speaking at the rally, Palestinian National Initiative leader Mustafa Barghouti, called for a unified Palestinian position and stated, “[t]hese talks will fail, and the risks are higher than ever for Palestinians… it is not working.’
Further elections have been postponed numerous times since January 2009, with the most recent postponement coming in July of this year.
Hamas have been shut out of the peace talks, with Israel and the U.S. insisting that they will not be included until they recognize the the state of Israel and renounce violence.
In the past few days settlers in the West Bank have come under attack several times, with the first two attacks claimed as the responsibility of the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing. These attacks resulted in four deaths and two serious injuries.
Hamas have vowed to continue their attacks in protest to the peace talks, and have announced that twelve other militant groups in the Gaza Strip have joined forces with them to increase the effectivity of said attacks against Israel.
Palestinian refugees, both internally displaced and those living outside of the Territories, have expressed their continued reservation that their right of return will be relinquished by Abbas’ team in a move to bring lasting peace, a move that they feel Abbas has no right to make.
The two sides will meet next to continue talks in two weeks, this time in the Middle East.