Israel-PA Permanent Status Talks to Begin Soon

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office announced on Friday that talks to establish a framework agreement for permanent status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been scheduled to begin on November 7.

Israel's newly appointed head negotiator Oded Eran met with the Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo for two hours in Jerusalem Friday morning in what was described as a "good atmosphere."

Israel and the PA exchanged insults earlier this week over each other's choices of leaders for their negotiating teams.

The two decided on a number of procedures regarding the negotiations and determined to conclude arrangements on procedures when they meet next week at a summit in Oslo.

The summit was organized around a planned ceremony commemorating the fourth anniversary of the assassination of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Rabin was one of the pioneers in the negotiations with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, which began as secret talks between Israel and the PLO in Oslo in 1993.

The summit will be attended by President Clinton who will meet with Barak and Arafat in Oslo. However, Clinton has warned not to expect too much to come out of those negotiations by way of agreements.

In Washington on Thursday, Clinton nominated Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Martin Indyk to replace the current ambassador to Israel Edward Walker and vice versa.

Indyk was heavily involved in peace negotiations during the Rabin era. Some observers said that Barak, widely viewed as Rabin's protege, requested from Clinton that Indyk be returned to Israel for final status negotiations.

"Ambassador Indyk has extensive experience with peace process issues and long standing ties with key Israeli and Arab officials," the White House announcement said.

"The President and Secretary of State believe there is a real opportunity to achieve a comprehensive peace and that this nomination is an important part of that effort."

If the nomination receives the expected Senate approval, Indyk and Walker will swap jobs.

At a hastily arranged hearing of the confirmation committee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, Indyk expressed a sense of urgency regarding the peace process.

"We are already seeing a much-accelerated pace of peacemaking. Prison releases, further redeployments, stepped-up security cooperation, opening of the safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza, and beginning of construction on the Gaza port are all examples of the way in which the process is moving forward," Indyk told the committee.

"Perhaps most importantly, the Palestinians and Israelis have agreed on an ambitious and accelerated timetable for permanent-status negotiations, which will address the core issues that have defined their conflict for the past 50 years," he added.

Israel and the PA have agreed to establish a framework by February for permanent status talks and to complete negotiations on a final settlement by September 2000. That settlement would include solutions to the problems of the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements, borders, security arrangements and water.