WASHINGTON – The White House on Wednesday renewed its call for a resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in the wake of Israeli elections in which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu emerged the winner but with a weaker-than-expected showing for his right-wing bloc.
White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to speculate on Netanyahu's efforts to forge a new governing coalition after Center-Left parties scored surprising gains but said President Barack Obama would likely call the prime minister to congratulate him on his election win.
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"We believe that what needs to take place is direct negotiations between the two parties (Israelis and Palestinians) that addresses the final-status issues and results in a two-state solution that provides the sovereignty that the Palestinian people deserve and the security that the Israeli people and Israel deserves," Carney told reporters.
Asked about how Netanyahu and Obama will continue to work together given their contentious relationship, Carney said: "I would answer by pointing out that no leader has met more often with or spent more time on the phone with President Obama than Prime Minister Netanyahu.
"That relationship is strong, and it is a relationship that allows for a free and open discussion of ideas and positions, and that's good for US-Israeli relations.
"I think that the underlying foundation of the relationship is very important to understanding. The approach that this administration takes and the approach that prior administrations have taken, and that is that we are committed to Israel's security.
"And we have demonstrated that commitment in the actions that we've taken, that the president has taken in his first term. And that will not change."
'Critical period ahead'
"This is not a time to be idle," said Robert Serry, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
Serry stated that the backdrop of ongoing regional events including Tuesday's elections in Israel could affect the peace process.
“We are entering a critical period ahead, in which concerted action will be vital if we are to salvage the two-State solution,” he stated.
The envoy urged both sides to abstain from actions that would make meaningful negotiations fruitless, calling on Israel to restore the "timely, predictable and transparent transfers of tax and customs revenues without further delay.”
In addition to raising the Israeli government's decision to withhold tax revenues belonging to the Palestinian Authority, Serry cited "worrying events" including continued settlement construction that serves to undermine mutual trust.
"If Israel is serious about the two-state solution it must recognize the negative impact of continued settlement construction. Palestinian seriousness could be demonstrated by pausing further action in the international arena while talks begin,” he stated.
The envoy said that the onus for action must come from the parties themselves, stating that no international effort alone is sufficient for progress.
“If they want to provide themselves and others with the opportunity to get on track in the period ahead, then now is not the time for actions that further undermine mutual trust,” Serry told the council.
He added that the peace process will remain on life-support if the leaders fail to engage in serious talks.
“Israeli and Palestinian leaders have stated, like us, that they are convinced the two-State solution is the only path toward a durable peace. But they should realize that absent serious engagement, the peace process will remain on life-support and stability on the ground will be put at risk even further.” said Serry.
“The consequences for inaction could be dire for everyone," he warned.
Setting a time period for critical action, the envoy acknowledged that the process required by both sides was no easy task, but that "courageous action" must be undertaken within the year.
“We cannot afford another year without courageous action undertaken for the purpose of achieving a two-state solution,” Serry stated.
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