‘Significant progress’ in Israeli-Palestinian talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry is overseeing the peace talks (Photo: AP)

US Secretary of State John Kerry is overseeing the peace talks (Photo: AP)

EXCLUSIVE

The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have made “significant progress” towards “a comprehensive agreement on all the issues” that will “bring us to the end of the conflict”, according to an Israeli expert with an inside track on the negotiations.

Despite the received wisdom that the talks are deadlocked, Gershon Baskin — who brokered the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas captivity two years ago — says in today’s JC that the talks, begun three months ago, are “very serious”.

Little optimism has surrounded the latest round of negotiations, which were instigated by American Secretary of State John Kerry.

But Mr Baskin, the co-chairman of a joint Israeli-Palestinian think tank to promote a two state solution, offers strong grounds for hope, based on contact with negotiators from Israel, the Palestinians and the United States.

The parties have rejected “the idea of another interim agreement”, he reveals. “They are working towards a comprehensive agreement on all of the issues, stating that it will bring us to the end of the conflict and the end of all claims.”

Contradicting reports that Israel wants to focus on security and the Palestinians on borders, Mr Baskin writes that all issues are “on the table” including Jerusalem, refugees and water.

He says that while he does not “really know” what is going on behind closed doors, he believes his assessment is as “close to the truth as possible”.

The negotiations are “very serious, they are not deadlocked and significant progress has been made”.

Dismissing most of what has been written about them so far as “not true”, he cautions: “Those who speak don’t know, and those who know are not speaking”.

The main difficulty to a successful resolution remains “the complete lack of trust between the parties… While a clear majority of Israelis and Palestinians want peace, there is a large majority on both sides that believe that it is not possible.”

Last updated: 10:30am, October 31 2013