Mitchell Reaffirms ‘Linkage’ In Remarks On Direct Talks

US MideastReading today’s Quartet statement on resumption of direct talks, it’s worth noting that, while Prime Minister Netanyahu was successful in avoiding a complete reiteration of the Quartet’s March statement emphasizing Israel’s settlement obligations, as President Mahmoud Abbas wanted, Abbas also got a reference to 1967 (though notably not a reference to those borders as a basis for negotiaton) that he wanted, and which Netanyahu had resisted:

The Quartet reaffirms its full commitment to its previous statements, including in Trieste on 26 June 2009, in New York on 24 September 2009, and its statement in Moscow on 19 March 2010 which provides that direct, bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues should “lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.

Speaking to the press after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement of the resumption of talks, Special Envoy George Mitchell said that the administration believed a peace agreement “can be done within a year, and that is our objective.”

Mitchell also restated the importance of achieving a peace agreement not only to the Israelis and Palestinians, but also as a key U.S. interest “in terms of dealing with other conflicts in the region.” This was a clear reference to the “linkage” concept that has informed much of the administration’s approach, but which is still resisted by many conservatives who contend that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unrelated to other U.S. challenges in the Middle East.