U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are tackling early on the thorniest issues confronting them, as they make efforts to negotiate a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian agreement that would resolve all permanent status issues and result in 2 states, Israel and Palestine, living side–by-side in peace.
Mr. Mitchell spoke after Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas met in Jerusalem for a second round of direct talks, which Senator Mitchell and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also attended:
"The 2 leaders are not leaving the tough issues to the end of their discussions... We take this as a strong indicator of their belief that peace is possible and of their desire to conclude an agreement."
Senator Mitchell said that the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian president reiterated their condemnation of violence that targets innocent civilians, and they reaffirmed their conviction that the goal of 2 states for 2 peoples can be achieved only through negotiations:
"They pledged to continue working together, to maintain security, while steadfastly pursuing this goal. The Secretary [Clinton] and I pledged our full support for their efforts. We reconfirmed that the United States will play a sustained and active role in these negotiations and in the implementation of an agreement. We will stand by the parties as they make the tough choices that are required to secure a better future for their people and for the entire region."
The 2 sides continued their discussions, begun in Washington September 2, regarding permanent status issues. Senator Mitchell said discussing difficult issues does not mean resolving them, but direct discussions of the issues by the 2 leaders "are a necessary predicate" for their resolution:
"To me, it has been extremely impressive to see both leaders engaging in this fashion. They are serious. They mean business."
Senator Mitchell expressed optimism about the parties' decision to first tackle a framework agreement for a permanent peace. "They do have differences," said Mr. Mitchell. "We believe they can be overcome, and we are going to remain and support them with patience, perseverance, and determination."