The White House on Monday cautioned against reading too much into the U.S.-brokered resumption of talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
“It's an important development, but I don't want to overstate it or understate it,” spokesman Jay Carney said of the breakthrough announced by Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday. He expressed “very cautious optimism.”
Carney said the talks indicate “some positive progress but is not representative of a conclusion of anything.” He said the administration is “working on a date” to bring Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to Washington, but would not specify a timetable for new peace talks.
“This is the first time in years the official negotiators for both sides have publicly agreed to meet at this level,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday. “Representatives have decided that the difficult road ahead is worth traveling and that daunting challenges they face are worth tackling. Right now, we are pursuing the way forward. There's been a great deal of work, compromise and sacrifice leading to this point.”
In fact, negotiators for both sides plan to travel to Washington merely to outline the framework for future negotiations. Questions over prisoner releases, Israeli settlement construction and the baseline for border talks will need to be settled before talks begin in earnest.
Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have stressed that any eventual deal would need to pass a national referendum. Netanyahu has said it must satisfy concerns about Israeli security, and a spokesman for Abbas said any final deal must be based on the 1967 borders.
“It won’t be easy. But we are entering the talks with integrity, honesty, and hope that this process is handled responsibly, seriously and to the point,” Netanyahu said, according to The Washington Post.
Kerry was scheduled to meet with President Obama Monday afternoon for a regular weekly briefing that will include discussion of the peace talks.
Among the likely topics of discussion will be the U.S. point man on the effort. Israeli media reported Sunday that former ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk has been chosen for the role, but the State Department would not confirm Monday that a final decision had been made.
“Obviously, he's a very well respected, you know, professional with a great deal of experience and background,” Psaki said. “But I don't have any other updates on the personnel process.”
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