Talking Lots and Going Nowhere

We might well end up with a situation where, when the leaders are finally ready to sit and talk, by then the people will be too skeptical to listen.

Seven hours of meetings between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, plus separate meetings between their staffs, brought a vague joint statement about a “good discussion today, with a friendly and productive exchange of views on both sides.”

In the discussion, United States Secretary of State Clinton “reiterated the United States' unshakable commitment to Israel's security and to peace in the region.” There was nothing new on top of what was said many times before.

netanyahu - Reuters - November 11 2010

It certainly left a feeling that if the process won’t lead to any open encouraging messages to the Israeli and the Palestinian people – we might well end up with a situation where, when the leaders are finally ready to sit and talk, by then the people will be too skeptical to listen.

State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley tried hard today to say something positive about the meeting without going into any specifics, which only stressed the lack of any breakthrough at this point.

“Rest assured that this was a very detailed, substantive and productive meeting yesterday,” he said. “Any time a secretary of State and Israeli prime minister get together we think it's useful. It was substantive; it was lengthy."

"The reality is that we have reached an obstacle and we're trying to surmount it. And what gives us encouragement is that, you know, everyone involved - the Israelis, the Palestinians, other countries in the region, and other countries around the world - want this effort to succeed."

"And everyone is creating sufficient room and time for the United States, with the support of others, to patiently work through this challenge, get the parties back into negotiation and reach an agreement."

"It doesn't mean this is not hard. What gives us encouragement is the response that we're hearing from countries in the region and around the world. They are supportive of the United States. They recognize the importance of our leadership, but they also recognize the real challenge."

"But yesterday's meeting, just like the follow-up activities that we will embark on, are aimed at finding a way to get to a negotiation that gets to an agreement. We are determined, but we recognize that this is going to be difficult.”

“As to the issue of settlements, our policy is well-known. The concern of the Palestinian people and others in the region are well-known. This is something that we discuss as part of any meeting we have with the parties. We have and continue to talk to Israel about security concerns."

"It's not a matter of the commitment. It's a matter of how, in the context of reaching an agreement, we can best assure that security concerns can be reasonably addressed. At the heart of this is again getting over the years and decades of mistrust that have built up between both sides. So security is a concern. And the ability of the Palestinians, the United States and others to address those concerns is crucial to being able to make progress”.

Commenting on a possible security deal between the US and Israel in exchange for freezing settlements’ construction, Crowley said, “A core concern of the Israeli government is security. And in order to advance to an agreement, an Israeli prime minister has to be confident that an agreement will make his people more secure."

Crowley continued, "On the other side of the coin, obviously, territory is central to the Palestinian aspiration, for a state."

"In order to make progress, we have to assure the leaders on both sides that this negotiation and ultimately this agreement can meet the needs of both sides. We are confident, as the secretary reiterated yesterday, that this can be accomplished. And we will continue to work with the parties to try to resume negotiations and reach an agreement."

Talking about the possibility of reviving the Syrian and Lebanese track of peace negotiations, Crowley said, “We are in pursuit of comprehensive peace, and that means that in addition to the Israeli-Palestinian track, we're looking to see engagement and progress and resolution of the Syrian track and the Lebanese track."

Crowley continued, "That is our goal, and we continue to talk to various parties in the region, including Syria and including Lebanon, about their ideas on how to proceed.”