Israel to reject US timeline


Israel will reject any moves by the US to set its own timeline and benchmarks for Palestinian peace talks, potentially establishing a new fault line between Washington and the Netanyahu government. Key Arab leaders, such as Jordan’s King Abdullah, have publicly called for US President Barack Obama to impose on Israel the parameters for negotiations, arguing that otherwise the process will stall interminably.

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Senior White House officials, such as National Security Adviser James Jones, have also discussed recently the prospects of Washington proposing its own Middle East plan, though US diplomats stressed last week that such a move was not imminent or agreed upon.
These developments have rankled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which is already at odds with Mr Obama over the issue of Jewish settlements in disputed East Jerusalem.
“I don’t believe this will be accepted by the administration because it will be a grave mistake … The solution has to be home-grown,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, told The Wall Street Journal.
Mr Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, is a member of the political party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who opposes a near- term deal with the Palestinians. Aides to Mr Netanyahu said yesterday that the Prime Minister’s office was in accord with the Foreign Ministry on resisting any US plan to establish its own parameters.
“The longstanding Israeli position, not of this government only, but of successive Israeli governments, is that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to live together in peace and that an agreement has to be negotiated between them directly,” said a senior Netanyahu
administration official.
The spokesman for the Palestinian Authority joined other Arab officials in calling for direct US intervention in the peace process. “The reason why Israel doesn’t want anybody to interfere is simply they are exploiting the balance of powers between us and them,” said spokesman Ghassan Khatib.
The Quartet, a grouping of bodies promoting Middle East peace that includes the US, Russia, the European Union and the UN, last month targeted a two-year timeline for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Former US president Bill Clinton set his own parameters in late 2000, defining the peace process around the creation of a Palestinian state based on the pre-June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
US officials say they are aware of the risk of putting forward their own plan for Middle East peace. Any rejection by Mr Netanyahu or the Palestinian Authority of Washington’s terms, Obama administration officials acknowledge, could threaten a fresh roadblock.