Oren presents Israel’s priorities for talks

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel’s U.S. ambassador, Michael Oren, outlined for Jewish leaders his country’s list of priorities in framing peace talks with the Palestinians.

Oren, speaking Thursday in a conference call, said Israel is looking into President Obama’s recent proposals for renewing talks. Such talks, Oren said, should be framed by what he called the "terms of reference": the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; no return of Palestinian refugees; and a long-term military presence for Israel along the Jordan-West Bank border. Also, that an agreement would end all claims.

"Our negotiation teams together with the American negotiation teams are trying to find a viable frame work that we can agree on for renewing the negotiation," Oren said.

"Dennis Ross was in Israel last week," he said, referring to a top adviser to Obama.  "Our team is in Washington today. we are looking at President Obama’s speeches from mid May, looking at those areas we can live with other areas that with clarification can satisfy our needs."

In two May speeches, Obama outlined proposals to restart talks based on 1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps.

"If we can agree, proceed and convinced the Europeans to come on board and have a united platform and present the Palestinians with a fait accomplit in a way that might, just might, divert them from going to the U.N. and convince them to give up the reconciliation  pact with Hamas.," Oren said.

During the call organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Oren insisted that the terms were not preconditions; Israel has pushed back Palestinian demands for a settlement freeze as an unwarranted precondition. Pressed by a questioner, however, Oren acknowledged that Israel’s demand that the Palestinian Authority end reconciliation talks with Hamas was a precondition.

"Hamas is not a game changer, it’s a game stopper," he said.

Obama has called for an end to all claims, recognition of Israel as Jewish and for a non-militarized Palestinian state. The issues of refugees and Jerusalem should be deferred until later, the president has said.

The Palestinians have accepted Obama’s proposal in principle.

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