JERUSALEM—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has an important role to play in Israeli–Palestinian peace negotiations, which reopened Monday, according to Dr. Yossi Beilin.
Beilin was one of the negotiators of the Oslo agreement of 1993 and he was a Geneva Initiative leader in 2003; thus he was involved in two major negotiation sessions between Israelis and Palestinians.
“It’s so much dependent on the players,” said Beilin at a Press Club event in Jerusalem Monday, titled The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks: How to Make Them Work. He added that five years ago, almost all the same players were involved: U.S. President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The new player is Kerry.
“Without Kerry, there is no way to have this meeting,” Beilin said. He believes the negotiations should continue to be private and held in Washington, D.C., as “Kerry’s baby.”
On Monday, Hatnua Party leader and Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni met with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Washington.
“A big advantage is that the people involved in the negotiations have known each other for years and they can directly begin to talk about the deal,” Beilin said.
Beilin’s opinion is that it will be best for all parties if the leaders can reach a final agreement. He sees the borders as the main issue, and the gap between Israeli and Palestinian positions on this issue is considerable.
Concerning the time given the negotiators to reach an agreement, Beilin said, “It is important that the parties know there is a limit of time.” His suggestion is that, if after a few months, a final agreement still seems out of reach, the parties should at least forge an interim agreement.
According to Beilin, President Abbas is against an interim agreement, while Netanyahu is for it. Abbas told Beilin in the past, “Behind the interim agreement, Israel will do it permanently.” Abbas added that the Oslo agreement, signed 20 years ago, was an interim agreement meant to last five years, but it became permanent.