Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei formally began discussions Monday in Jerusalem on the “core issues” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and agreed that while the talks will not be held in secret, their content will not be made public.
This is the first time Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have tackled the core issues – Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, security and water – since the breakdown of the Camp David talks in July 2000.
During the Palestinian violence that followed the breakdown of the Camp David talks, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon said there would be no negotiations while terrorism raged, a policy that was changed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Livni last year when they decided to hold negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, but stipulated that any agreement hammered out would not be implemented until the Palestinian Authority dismantled the terrorist infrastructure and fought terrorism.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said Livni and Qurei held a two-hour private meeting, and decided that the negotiations would be “intensive.” Mekel said that they decided that while the talks would not be a secret, the sides would be “discreet.”
“Both sides decided that they would not publicize details so as to make progress possible,” he said. Mekel characterized Monday’s talks as “very positive.”
Before meeting with Qurei, Livni addressed a forum of government directors-general and explained the reason for not going public with information about the content of the meetings.
“Past experience proves that when negotiations are conducted in the lights of the cameras, this results in the adoption of more extreme positions, the distortion of what is said in the negotiating room, the raising of expectations, followed by disappointment and violence. Faced with a choice between headlines and daily drama as opposed to results – I choose results,” she said.
Livni said the situation on the ground obligated the sides to conduct the discussion while at the same time dealing with the existing reality and the need to change it.
Livni said that in the final analysis the reality will be “examined” and “any agreement will be subject to the implementation of the road map. This is the major achievement of the Annapolis Conference, and this is the understanding which forms the basis for the negotiations.”
Government officials said that Livni and Qurei will meet weekly, though the exact format of how they will deal with the issues – whether sequentially or in parallel – have yet to be worked out. Yesterday’s meeting, the officials said, was a preliminary one in which Livni and Qurei “set the agenda” for further talks.