Major issues in Middle East peace

2010-09-02 12:44
Washington – Israeli and Palestinian leaders resume direct peace talks on Thursday in Washington following a 20-month hiatus.

Following are the main issues on the table:

Two-state solution

US President Barack Obama is pushing for an agreement that would create a state for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip alongside Israel, the so-called two-state solution at the core of US efforts for an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said a Palestinian state must be demilitarised so as not to threaten Israel. The Palestinians do not object to this demand, but say it should be discussed in negotiations with Israel.

But the issue has been severely complicated by the fact that Gaza and the West Bank are run by different Palestinian parties, which are virulently opposed to each other. Hamas Islamists, who govern Gaza, denounce the notion of direct talks and do not recognise Israel's right to exist.

Israeli settlements

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has called for a total freeze on the expansion of settlements Israel his built on land it captured in the 1967 war. That would be in line with a commitment Israel made under a 2003 US-backed peace "road map".

Netanyahu imposed a 10-month halt to new housing starts in West Bank settlements that expires on September 26. He did not apply the measure to East Jerusalem, captured from Jordan in 1967, and has not committed to extending the West Bank moratorium.

Palestinians say all settlements should be evacuated, and along with the World Court and major powers, consider them illegal. Israel has said it intends to keep several major settlements in any future peace deal, a move that could result in territorial swaps with the Palestinians.

Jerusalem

Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City and its sites sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians, to be the capital of the state they aim to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu has said Jerusalem would remain Israel's "indivisible and eternal" capital. Israel's claim to the eastern part of Jerusalem is not recognised internationally.

Refugees

Palestinians have long demanded that refugees who fled or were forced to leave in the war of Israel's creation in 1948 should be allowed to return, along with millions of their descendants. Yet Palestinian negotiators have signalled they would accept "a just and agreed-upon" solution for refugees as laid out in a UN resolution that mentions compensation for those who settle elsewhere.

Israel says any resettlement of Palestinian refugees must occur outside of its borders.

Read more on:    hamas  |  benjamin netanyahu  |  barack obama  |  israel  |  gaza  |  middle east peace
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