US Pushes Indirect Talks Amid Dispute Over Issues

Amid reports that US Middle East envoy George Mitchell will press Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to chart out his position on borders clearly, Netanyahu made clear before his meeting with Mitchell on Monday night that the first issues he wants to tackle are recognition, security and refugees.

In a speech to the Globes Business Forum a number of hours before meeting with Mitchell, Netanyahu said that to achieve peace, “the issues that are truly delaying the peace must be discussed: the question of recognition, the question of security, the question of various arrangements, refugees, etc., and of course many additional issues.”

Mitchell arrived back in the region on Monday to discuss the core issues separately with each side in the hope that gaps could be narrowed and direct negotiations restarted.

The question of which issue to tackle first has long been a major point of dispute between the sides, with the Palestinians wanting to focus first on borders and Jerusalem, and Israel on refugees, recognition and security.

The sequence is significant, because Israel is concerned that if the Palestinians get what they want on the border issue, they will not be forthcoming on any of the issues that come later, such as refugees.And the Palestinians argue that if they cave in up front on recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel will have no incentive to be forthcoming on borders or Jerusalem."