Here are a number of statements and views of the latest peace initiative in the Middle East that the United States announced yesterday with some fanfare.
First, excerpts of John Kerry's announcement yesterday in Jordan:
"On behalf of President Obama, I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This is a significant and welcome step forward.
"The agreement is still in the process of being formalized, so we are absolutely not going to talk about any of the elements now...
"If everything goes as expected, Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni, Minister Livni, and Isaac Molho will be joining me in Washington to begin initial talks within the next week or so, and a further announcement will be made by all of us at that time..."[N]o one believes that the longstanding differences between the parties can be resolved overnight or just wiped away.We know that the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead. Today, however, I am hopeful. I'm hopeful because of the courageous leadership shown by President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Both of them have chosen to make difficult choices here, and both of them were instrumental in pushing in this direction. We wouldn't be standing here tonight if they hadn't made the choices.
"I'm most hopeful because of the positive steps that Israelis themselves and Palestinians are taking on the ground and the promise that those steps represent about the possibilities of the future. The path to resolution of this longstanding conflict in this critical corner of the world, that path is not about fate. It's about choices, choices that people can make. And this is not up to chance. It's up to the Israeli people and the Palestinian people and no one else.
"So knowing that the road ahead will be difficult and the challenges that the parties face are daunting, we will call on everybody to act in the best of faith and push forward. The representatives of two proud people today have decided that the difficult road ahead is worth traveling and that the daunting challenges that we face are worth tackling. So they have courageously recognized that in order for Israelis and Palestinians to live together side by side in peace and security, they must begin by sitting at the table together in direct talks.
"I thank those leaders. I thank all those who have worked so hard, my team especially, who have been part of this. And I look forward to seeing my friends from this region in Washington next week or very soon thereafter. Thank you very much."
The New York Times story on the announcement, "Kerry Achieves Deal to Revive Mideast Talks," offers wan hope. It quotes just one Palestinian on the matter, and five or six Israelis and American Israel lobbyists, including the inevitable Dennis Ross:
"There was no indication that either the Israelis or the Palestinians had compromised on core issues -- such as ending Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank or conceding the right of return of Palestinian refugees -- that have sunk previous negotiations. Rather, this round of diplomacy was focused on getting distrusting adversaries to sit in the same room.
"...'He's gotten them into the pool,' said David Makovsky, director of a project on the peace process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, referring to Mr. Kerry. 'Right now they're in the very shallow end, and they're going to have to swim in deeper waters -- and they can be treacherous. It's still an achievement that he got them into the pool...'
"[Kerry] apparently won concessions on the new framework, which American, Israeli and Palestinian officials said would allow Washington to declare the 1967 prewar borders as the basis for the talks -- along with the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state -- but allow Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas to distance themselves from those terms...
"Dennis B. Ross, a former American peace envoy to the Middle East, said that ... having the talks start at the negotiator-level and remaining mum about the terms were smart steps by Mr. Kerry."'You don't need another situation where you bring the leaders together and build the expectations that you're going to have a dramatic breakthrough,' Mr. Ross said."
Israeli politician/centrist/Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Facebook:
"It was months of skepticism and cynicism. But now, four years of political deadlock are about to end. On occasion I also know that the negotiations will be complicated and not easy. But I believe with all my heart it's the right thing for our future, for our security, economy and values of Israel. Get an estimate for the Prime Minister who took decisions that represent the interests of Israel. And the determination of the self-evident of the American Secretary of State led to the coming, and we, in the negotiations. In that room we will maintain the national and the security interests of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state -- to that I vouch." [translation by both Bing and the NYT]