The ghost of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is scheduled to pay a visit in Washington on Tuesday under a cloak of secrecy, which is bound to be violated by both sides.
False claims and trial balloons have become a trademark of the jockeying by Israeli and PA leaders as well as the State Dept. since direct talks broke off nearly three years ago.
Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat, two days after categorically saying he would not attend the talks without commitments by Israel, reportedly will meet on Tuesday with his Israel counterparts, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s emissary Yitzchak Molcho and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who also won the boogey prize as Peace Process Minister by a different name.
Never allowing himself a chance to grab a headline, Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom told reporters Thursday, “There is a good chance that negotiations with the Palestinians will resume next week in Washington on Tuesday, provided there are no last-minute complications.”
During a visit to Jericho where he and Palestinian Authority minister signed a declaration to back a long-delayed industrial park, Shalom claimed Israel has not given in to the condition laid down by chairman Mahmoud Abbas that Israel freeze construction on land claimed by the PA.
The Al-Ahram Egyptian weekly reported this week that its sources said the time frame of the talks will be 6-9 months. There will be no conditions, but Jordan will join the task when it comes to discussing the status of Jerusalem and final borders.
The Palestinian Authority claims it has not conceded anything and is waiting to see what will be discussed at the meeting planned for Tuesday.
In a counter-claim, Jewish Home Minister Naftali insists that construction is continuing as usual in Judea and Samaria and in parts of Jerusalem that were occupied by Jordan before the Six-Day War in 1967.
Unofficially, building for Jews has come to a standstill outside major Jewish population centers.
The first item on the agenda next week, if the talks are held, is the release of 82 terrorists, most of them convicted for murdering or being involved in planning attacks that murdered Jews.
The Cabinet likely will be asked to agree to release the terrorists towards the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which the Palestinian Authority and rest of the of Arab world has celebrated with unending anti-Semitic movies, television programs and sermons. There has not been one major release of terrorists that has not been followed with their returning to their favorite hobby of killing Jews. But every Israeli government always has been more concerned with winning a good word for a ghetto mentality than for keeping the country secure.
Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have said that if any final agreement is ever signed, it must be approved by a public referendum, which both the PA and Israel probably pray will never happen.