An Indirect Route to a Palestinian State?

RAMALLAH – Palestinians and Israelis have different and possibly contradictory expectations from the indirect negotiations that the United States has pushed both sides into beginning.

Israel was among the first parties to welcome the Arab League’s reluctant decision to back Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s call for Arabs to give their blessing to the talks. It is clear that for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, the start of indirect talks without freezing settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem is a sort of victory. Just to remind the world of this, as the indirect talks were preparing to get off the ground, Israel’s government approved a decision to break ground on 112 housing units in a settlement south of Bethlehem, and 1600 new settlement units in East Jerusalem.

For Palestinians, the return to talks, albeit indirect, is focused on one strategic issue: borders. The idea, a new one, aims at getting the Israelis and Palestinians to agree to the borders of the Palestinian state that both sides and the rest of the world have said is the way out of the decades-old conflict.

Palestinians want the areas occupied by Israel following the June 1967 War to be the territory of the Palestinian state. This fits with United Nations Security Council resolutions, among them Number 242, which stated the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war."