WASHINGTON (JTA) — Martin Indyk, the top U.S. envoy to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, told J Street that the aim of the talks is a final status agreement.
“All core issues are on the table,” Indyk said at the liberal pro-Israel group’s annual gala dinner Monday night. “Our common objective is a final status agreement, not an interim agreement.”
Indyk appeared to be pushing back against reports in the Israeli media that one plan was to include enough nuance in the final deal for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pitch the agreement to Israelis as an interim one, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would present it to Palestinians as permanent.
According to the reports, the formula would involve staggered handovers of land, thus tamping down Israeli opposition to permanently ceding West Bank areas.
Indyk noted that the only reliable source for information on the talks was U.S. officials like himself and Secretary of State John Kerry – and other leaks should not be taken seriously.
Kerry has said in recent weeks that he wants the sides to move to core issues soon. They include Jerusalem, borders and the status of the descendants of Palestinian refugees. The United States wants a deal by mid-2014.
In contrast to last year, both Netanyahu and Abbas delivered moderated comments at the U.N. General Assembly opening this year, stopping short of praising one another but not attacking one another as they had in 2012.
Indyk sounded positive about the talks, noting that representatives of the Quartet — the diplomatic grouping of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations — had been impressed by recent presentations by top negotiators from both sides. He warned, however, that a failure to arrive at a deal raised the risk of a return to violence.
Also appearing at the J Street gala was Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, who took time off from blistering debate in the House over avoiding a government shutdown to support J Street’s emphasis on advancing a two-state solution.
“It’s a vision at the center of any pro-Israel agenda, a vision essential to America’s national security,” she said.
The appearance of Pelosi, who is close to the leadership of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was a further marker of J Street’s establishment acceptance.
Leaders of mainstream Jewish groups and Vice President Joe Biden also appeared at the conference.
Also appearing for the first time, albeit in a pre-recorded video, was Michael Oren, the outgoing Israeli ambassador to Israel. Oren said in his remarks that Netanyahu, like J Street, favors a two-state solution, but also urged the group not to oppose Israel’s elected leaders. J Street has been outspoken in its criticisms of some of Netanyahu’s policies, particularly in the area of settlement expansion.
On Tuesday, J Street activists lobbied scores of congressional offices, pressing lawmakers to back House and Senate resolutions that back Kerry’s efforts to reach a two-state deal.