Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad offered contrasting views of the peace process today, as the latest round of preliminary talks between the sides seemed to hit a dead end.
“In the negotiations the gap was seriously narrowed, and neither the Palestinians nor the Israeli have any choice but to make peace,” Peres said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
A more downbeat Fayyad said at the forum that, in his assessment, the peace process “has never been this lacking in focus,” and the “conditions are actually not right, or ripe, for the resumption of the political process.”
Peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel broke down in September 2010, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to renew a 10-month freeze on building in West Bank settlements. Palestinians say that a complete halt to settlement construction must be a precondition for full-fledged negotiations to resume.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have met five times this month in Amman, Jordan in an effort to set terms that would allow for the renewal of formal peace talks. Those meetings failed to produce a breakthrough and a Palestinian official said today there would be no more meetings unless Israel agrees to a settlement freeze.
The Middle East Quartet, comprised of the U.S., the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, had set today as the deadline for resolving preliminary conditions ahead of the resumption of official negotiations.
Peres called the Quartet’s Jan. 26 deadline “arbitrary,” and said setting such targets was a mistake because “under pressure, we will commit mistakes.” He added that the international community had to do more to restrain outside regional parties from creating conditions that hinder the peace process, in particular Iran.
Fayyad, an economist who previously worked for the International Monetary Fund, said the intentional community was needed as a mediator in the process, and should also be providing the Palestinian Authority with more resources in its state-building efforts.