Israel and Palestine get year's deadline for peace
ISRAELI and Palestinian leaders have been given 12 months to make peace and agree to live side by side in two separate states in negotiations finally agreed yesterday.
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, announced she would personally lead the talks, to be launched in Washington on Sept 2.
They will follow the biggest Middle East summit for years, attended also by US President Barack Obama, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, King Abdullah of Jordan, and Tony Blair, as representative of the Middle East Quartet of major powers.
Over the following months, negotiators will have to set boundaries for a new Palestinian state, and decide the status of Jerusalem and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees, while hoping the talks will not be scuppered by resumed Israeli settlement building or militant attacks.
Mrs Clinton said she and Mr Obama shared with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, "the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security".
"There have been difficulties in the past, there will be difficulties ahead," she said.
"The enemies of peace will keep trying to defeat us and derail these talks. But I ask the parties to persevere, to keep moving forward, even through difficult times, and to continue working to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region."
The resumption of direct negotiations, which broke off in December 2008 when Israeli forces invaded Gaza, will be considered a foreign policy success for the Obama administration ahead of November's midterm elections.
But the complex political machinations that lay behind yesterday's announcement heralded potential difficulties.
The two sides have accepted different invitations to the same talks. Israel would only consider a direct invitation from the US without preconditions.
The Palestinians obtained from the Quartet a more fully worded invitation which made references to previous statements on their requirements, including a call for an end to Israeli settlement building.
It presages the creation of an independent Palestinian state based on the borders before the 1967 Six Day War, with some boundary changes to recognise "facts on the ground". That means existing Israeli settlements will be allowed to stay in return for a land swap, giving Israeli land to the Palestinians.
Among the major remaining obstacles is East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians view as a future capital but which Mr Netanyahu says must remain part of Israel.
As well, on September 26, a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction expires, but the Palestinians are likely to insist that there can be no settlement building for the duration of the talks. (© Daily Telegraph, London)