Washington — In an early sign of promise, Israeli and Palestinian leaders pledged Thursday in a cordial first round of talks to keep meeting at regular intervals, aiming to nail down a framework for overcoming deep disputes and achieving lasting peace within a year.
As their facilitator-in-chief, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to rise above the suspicion and skepticism that has blocked peace efforts for decades. “By being here today, you each have taken an important step toward freeing your peoples from the shackles of a history we cannot change,” she said.
The eventual aim is the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state beside a secure Israel.
Thursday’s results, in the first face-to-face peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in nearly two years, were modest — and acknowledged as such by all sides. There was no detailed negotiation on any substantive issue, according to George Mitchell, the administration’s special envoy for Mideast peace, who held months of preparatory talks and was a participant in most of the day’s discussions.
Netanyahu and Abbas will meet again on Sept. 14 and 15 in the Middle East, probably at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, with Clinton and Mitchell attending. The two also agreed to meet roughly every two weeks after that — sometimes with U.S. officials present, other times not.
Mitchell offered no timeline for agreeing on the initial framework, which he said was to be “less than a full-fledged treaty” but more detailed than a statement of principles.