Israel’s new coalition government is an opportunity to restart negotiations with the Palestinians, Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz told US President Barack Obama in an impromptu meeting at the White House yesterday.
Mofaz was meeting with US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon when several minutes into the meeting, Obama decided to join the two.
Mofaz told Obama that the new 94-member coalition, which was set up in Israel after his party Kadima joined the government, posed a window of opportunity to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
“The Americans have a strong will to advance the process,” Mofaz told Haaretz following the meeting. ”This time there are no preconditions . . . from my talks with US Secretary of State Clinton and the National Security Adviser, I feel that there is support for talks without preconditions.”
Iran was also discussed at the White House meeting. Mofaz said that he received a US commitment from Obama and US senators to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon. Mofaz added that US officials assured him that ”harsh sanctions will go into effect next month.”
Since Kadima joined Israel’s governing coalition, the Obama administration has been pushing for Israel and the Palestinians back to peace talks. Nevertheless, at this time there is little evidence that the two sides are ready to resume direct negotiations.
Whilst in Washington, Erekat conveyed to the US Administration the well-established Palestinian demands for reviving the peace process: a full cessation of settlement construction and the release of Palestinian prisoners.