Israeli PM Netanyahu Offers to Go to Ramallah for Peace
Israeli PM Netanyahu Offers to Go to Ramallah for Peace Israeli Defense Minister to Meet with Palestinian PM Fayyad
In a major push to restart peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday (June 30) invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Jerusalem, even offering to travel to Ramallah to get the peace process underway.
"I call on president Abu Mazen to come to Jerusalem," said Netanyahu. "I'm prepared to go to Ramallah."
Netanyahu, speaking about his upcoming trip to Washington, added, "I hope and I believe that a main part of my conversations with President Obama in Washington next week will be focused on how to start direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians right away. I think that this is the only way that we'll solve the intricate problems that we're discussing between us."
Netanyahu's offer to Abbas followed a meeting with Obama's Middle East negotiator George Mitchell, who has mediated talks between Israel and the Palestinians during the last five months.
Also on Wednesday (June 30), Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that he is scheduled to meet soon with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, marking the first such high-level meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders - without a mediator - in more than five months.
During Netanyahu's planned trip to Washington for talks with President Obama July 6, the two leaders are expected to discuss progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and other bilateral security issues. The trip will be Netanyahu's fifth White House visit since taking office in March 2009. Netanyahu originally planned to meet with Obama June 1, but postponed it to deal with the aftermath of a May 31 Israeli operation to prevent an illegal flotilla from reaching Gaza. Abbas met with Obama in Washington June 9.
In May, Israel and the Palestinian Authority entered into indirect "proximity talks," mediated by Mitchell. Since then, Israel has made a series of goodwill gestures to the Palestinians in hopes they will return to direct negotiations.
Israel has undertaken numerous actions and initiatives to pave the way for Palestinians and Israelis to live side by side in peace since President Obama was sworn into office in January 2009. Following is a timeline of highlights of those efforts and examples of Israel's attempts to grow the Palestinian economy
The timeline also includes Palestinian extremists' attempts to thwart peace as well as successful efforts by U.S.-trained Palestinian security forces to crack down on terrorism.
Roundup of recent Israeli economic peace efforts
Timeline of Israeli efforts for peace and Israeli-Palestinian cooperation
May 28: Israel reopens part of an Israeli highway to Palestinians.Route 443 had previously been restricted to Palestinians after terrorists shot five Israeli motorists on the road in 2002. Israelis still fear attacks, but Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) must grant Palestinians access to part of the highway in the West Bank.
May 26: Israel authorizes construction projects in Gaza in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority, sidelining Hamas. An Israel Defense Ministry official announces the government will deliver water and nine desalination systems to Gaza, and is approving supplies for construction on a hospital, 150 apartment buildings, a municipal sewage system, a flour mill and 60 classrooms at UN schools. All of the projects have the backing of the Palestinian Authority (PA), as part of Israel's strategy of weakening Iran-backed Hamas and strengthening the PA in Gaza. Israel will also allow 100 Gaza businessmen to travel to the West Bank city of Bethlehem via Israel for a business conference.
May 23: Israel moves forward with a series of confidence-building measures toward the Palestinians. After meeting with Palestinian security officials, the IDF announces it plans to improve daily life for Palestinians by removing 60 checkpoints in the West Bank; granting tourists and 50 Israeli tour guides entry to Bethlehem through all crossings; opening the Dahariya crossing near Hebron and the Keidar road near Ma'ale Adumim; facilitating travel for senior Palestinian businessmen through security crossings; and allowing Arab-Israeli civilians to visit the West Bank through all crossings along the security fence and the city of Tulkarem on weekends through the 104 crossings.
May 9: Israel and the Palestinian Authority complete the first round of indirect "proximity" talks. After U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell wraps up meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the State Department issues a statement that: "If either [party] takes significant actions during the proximity talks that we judge would seriously undermine trust, we will respond to hold them accountable and ensure that negotiations continue." The Palestinians pledge to take measures to curb anti-Israel incitement, while Israel agrees to postpone an East Jerusalem housing project in a Jewish neighborhood.
April 22: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urges Palestinians to return to peace talks. In an interview with Israel's Channel 2, Netanyahu says that Israel "very much [wants] to move the political process forward. We took several steps to advance it...On my first day in office, I called on [President Abbas] to come and negotiate, and on my first day, unfortunately, he set preconditions. We did other things - we removed roadblocks and hundreds of checkpoints. We also approved the moratorium [on new construction in the West Bank]. We took all these steps..."
March 21: Israel announces new plan to upgrade Arab economy and infrastructure. The $213 million (800 million shekel) program to develop economic opportunities, transportation and housing for Israel's minority communities was crafted specifically to assist Israel's Arab population and will focus on 12 Bedouin and Arab communities, comprising approximately 400,000 residents.
March 15: Jerusalem's mayor and the prime minister of Israel attend the rededication ceremony for the Hurva synagogue in Jerusalem's Old City. Says Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, "I want to send a message of peace to all religions...I believe that from this place, where we experienced the terrible pain of the destruction of a place that was holy to us...we will know to be sensitive to others doubts and troubles." Prime Minister Netanyahu: "Many people are excited about this moment - and justifiably so...We have allowed believers in other faiths to conserve their houses of worship. We proudly hold on to our heritage, while at the same time allowing others freedom of religion."
March 10: Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai apologizes the day after his ministry announced the construction of 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish northern Jerusalem neighborhood. Ramat Shlomo falls within the city's municipal boundaries and was annexed by Israel following the 1967 defensive Six-Day War. The timing of the announced construction - the fourth of a seven-step zoning process that is expected to continue for years - coincided with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to the region as part of a U.S. attempt to push proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians. "The approval is a purely technical matter and we have no intention of insulting or seeking a confrontation with the U.S. vice president," says Yishai, adding, "I apologize for the distress this matter caused." An interior ministry spokeswoman adds that the new construction project has been in the planning stages for the past three years and that the timing was coincidental.
March 2: Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announces that he will delay implementation of a plan to revitalize the city's historic Al Bustan section, located in the mostly Arab neighborhood of Silwan. The plan caused controversy because its restoration of the western part of the area, known in Hebrew as Gan Hamelech (King's Garden) would require the demolition of about 22 houses illegally built there. Barkat makes the decision to postpone the plan, estimated to cost $50 million - $100 million, at the request of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who wants to avoid tensions created by what he called "elements...interested in sowing strife and discord and in presenting a distorted picture to the country and the world." In the meantime, Barkat says he will hold further talks with area residents in hopes of reaching a housing agreement with them.
Jan. 25: Humanitarian aid to Gaza continues with 68 truckloads of supplies passing through the goods crossings from Israel into Gaza. From Jan. 19, 2009 - Jan. 16, 2010, 724,925 tons of humanitarian aid were delivered to Gaza. That represents a 900 percent increase in humanitarian aid delivered there compared to 2008.
Jan. 23: Israeli officials authorize the payment of $6.7 million (25 million shekels) to Gaza residents entitled to social security and pension payments from Israel due to having worked inside the country in previous years.
Dec. 30: Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis decline significantly, according to Israel's internal security agency. For the first year since the Second Intifada began in September 2000, no suicide bombings were carried out. This is attributed to Israeli security measures as well as cooperation with the Palestinian Authority's security forces. There were, however, numerous foiled attempts to carry out suicide bombings by Palestinian terrorist operatives from the Gaza Strip attempting to infiltrate Israel via Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
Dec. 29: Prime Minister Netanyahu travels to Egypt to meet with President Hosni Mubarak in an attempt to kick-start peace talks with the Palestinians.
Dec. 28: The Israeli government announces it has approved the construction of 1,192 new housing units for both Arab and Jewish residents of East Jerusalem; 500 housing units were authorized in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan for the Arab population, and 692 housing units were authorized for the mostly Jewish neighborhoods of Har Homa, Neve Yaakov and Pisgat Zeev. Said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, "Israeli law does not discriminate between Jews, Muslims, and Christians or between eastern and western Jerusalem."
Dec. 24: Terrorists from Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militia shoot to death Rabbi Meir Hai in the West Bank. He was driving from his home in the settlement of Shavei Shomron to the nearby community of Einav.
Dec. 23: Israeli Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Binyamin Ben-Eliezer encourages the Palestinian leadership to accept Prime Minister Netanyahu's call to start final status negotiations. Ben-Eliezer, who was speaking at an exclusive press conference for Palestinian media, states that the real conflict is not between Israelis and Palestinians but common strategic threats such as Iran and Iran-backed Hamas. It was the first time an Israeli minister has held such a briefing
Dec. 14: Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says Hamas wants control over all of "Palestine." At a rally in Gaza, the former Palestinian prime minister says, "This movement [Hamas] liberated the Gaza Strip with the help of the militant factions...Brothers and sisters, we will not be satisfied with Gaza...Hamas looks toward the whole of Palestine."
Dec. 13: A group of Israeli rabbis brings new Korans to the Palestinian town of Yasuf in the West Bank after suspected Jewish extremists vandalized a mosque and burned its Korans. The next day, Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Yona Metzger, visits the mosque to condemn the attack, comparing it to the Nazis' destruction of synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses.
Dec. 7: EU ministers meet in Brussels to consider a Swedish-backed proposal to divide Jerusalem. The proposal would potentially close off part of the city to non-Muslims and undermines the future of the peace process by circumventing future negotiations. Under Jordanian control from 1948-1967, access to the holy sites in East Jerusalem and the Old City was denied to Israeli Jews and limited access was granted to Christian Israelis. Under Israeli control since 1967, people of all faiths have access to the city's many holy sites. Israeli law mandates that everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, has the right to visit all holy places within Israel. Israel funds more than 100 mosques and pays the salaries of their imams (religious leaders). In addition, Israel purchases the Korans used in mosques.
December: The Israeli government facilitates Christmas celebrations and services such as free transportation between Jerusalem and the West Bank town of Bethlehem and complimentary Christmas trees for Jerusalem residents. Israel is one of the few Middle East countries where the Christian population has increased since 1948, rising by more than 400 percent.
Nov. 27: PA President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to enter into new negotiations following the announcement of Israel's settlement freeze; Abbas says the Israeli measures are insufficient.
Nov. 25: Prime Minister Netanyahu announces a 10-month construction freeze in West Bank settlements to encourage the Palestinian Authority to re-start peace negotiations.
Nov. 11: Israel officially opens the Jalameh Border Crossing between Israel and the West Bank town of Jenin, in the presence of Quartet Representative Tony Blair, Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Cooperation Silvan Shalom and Minister of Minorities Avishay Braverman. The border crossing, which is now open to Arab-Israeli vehicles driving to Jenin and surrounding areas, is another example of Israel's commitment to easing restrictions for the Palestinian population as well as facilitating the free flow of goods and transport between Israel and the West Bank, which in turn strengthens the Palestinian economy.
Sept. 24: As part of Israeli and Palestinian efforts to improve security cooperation, Israeli Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi meets with top Palestinian intelligence officials in Bethlehem. Security cooperation is improved with the help of regular meetings between PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad and the head of the IDF's civil coordination unit for the West Bank.
Sept. 23: The Hamas children's program "Tomorrow's Pioneers" continues to incite hatred and violence. In a show broadcast in September, the show's costumed character, Nassur the Bear, tells the show's child host, "There won't be any Jews or Zionists, if Allah wills. They'll be erased...We want to slaughter them, so they will be expelled from our land, right?...And if they don't want [to go] peacefully, by words or talking, we'll have to [do it] by slaughter."
Sept. 16: Israel begins removing 100 roadblocks from the West Bank.Successful Israeli counter-terrorism operations and collaboration with Palestinian security forces that have greatly reduced the terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank have made the removal of checkpoints and roadblocks possible. This has boosted trade and commerce within the area.
July 28: Prime Minister Netanyahu visits the Allenby Bridge, which connects the West Bank to Jordan, to view the improved operating procedures of the goods and pedestrian crossing. At the beginning of July, Netanyahu ordered extending the operating hours for the Allenby Bridge in order to increase the volume of commercial activity in the West Bank.
July 20: Ofir Gendelman, CEO of the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce briefs Arabic media outlets in Arabic on economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Outlets include Al Jazeera and AFP Arabic. "This is the first Israeli government that calls for the improvement of the economical status of the Palestinians," says Gendelman.
July: Construction on the Bethlehem industrial park begins. The project is expected to provide infrastructure for light industry, handicrafts and stone crafts.
June 25: The IDF states it will limit its presence in four Palestinian cities in the West Bank: Bethlehem, Jericho, Qalqiliya and Ramallah. The army said it would only enter these cities when it was alerted to a specific terror plot. This move is designed to make Palestinian life easier and give Palestinian security services more responsibility for stopping terrorist activity.
June 18: The IDF removes the Vered Jericho crossing south of the West Bank town of Jericho, providing freedom of movement between Jericho and the Jordan Valley.
June 14: Prime Minister Netanyahu delivers a major speech to the nation at Bar-Ilan University in which he calls for economic cooperation with the Palestinians in conjunction with the Arab states, immediate negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions, and endorses the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state.
June 2: The IDF dismantles key roadblocks near Rimonim and Atara, Jewish settlements on the outskirts of Ramallah, enabling Palestinians free passage between the West Bank towns of Ramallah and Jericho.
May 27: Prime Minister Netanyahu convenes a governmental committee to explore economic projects intended to improve the quality of life for Palestinian residents of the West Bank.
May 16: A Jewish/Arab-Israeli duo makes it to the final round of the annual Eurovision Song Contest. The two singers - Mira Awad, an Arab musician and actress, and Jewish pop singer Noa - perform a duet in Arabic, Hebrew and English titled "Einaiych - There Must Be Another Way." Despite their different backgrounds, their collaboration at the 2008 Eurovision contest illustrates the endeavors of many organizations in Israel that promote peace and cooperation through joint projects such as economic development centers, after-school sports and bilingual and bicultural schools. Awad performs despite being urged by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel "not to participate on behalf of Israel in this contest."
May 14: Prime Minister Netanyahu makes an unannounced trip to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II. The two men discuss plans to move forward on the Palestinian peace process, strengthen the Palestinian economy through joint Israeli projects and improve the Palestinian Authority's security forces.
May 11: Prime Minister Netanyahu travels to Sharm el-Sheikh to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss restarting peace talks. The prime minister says, "We wish to resume the peace talks between ourselves and the Palestinians."
May 5: In a speech to AIPAC, Prime Minister Netanyahu pledges to work with Abbas's government in the West Bank and proposes a "triple track" toward peace including political, security and economic tracks.
March 26: Israel and Egypt celebrate 30 years since Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat shook hands and signed a peace agreement on the White House lawn. Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel.
March 2: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States will pledge $900 million to help rebuild infrastructure in Gaza damaged during Operation Cast Lead. Clinton stresses that the money would be channeled through the Palestinian Authority controlled by Fatah and not Hamas.
Feb. 10: Israel holds a general election that eventually leads to the formation of a Likud-led government. The centrist Kadima party takes 28 seats in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and remains the biggest party, with Likud winning 27 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu taking 15 seats and Labor 13. Even though Kadima wins the most seats, the center-right and rightist parties win more seats overall than the center and center-left factions so Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is asked to form the next government.
February: Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter says Hamas' efforts to smuggle weapons into Gaza have started again. "We see an effort exerted by Hamas to rebuild its tunnels, and we have spotted several incidents of weapon smuggling since the ceasefire began," he says.
Past Israeli sacrifices for peace
Aug. 15-Aug. 23, 2005: Gaza and West Bank Disengagement. In an effort to relieve the security threats against Israelis living in Gaza and to try to put the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks back on track, Israel unilaterally pulls all of its citizens out of the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. This dramatic move costs Israel approximately $2 billion, and includes the evacuation of all of the roughly 9,000 Israelis living in the affected areas in addition to exhuming and transferring all graves in Gaza to Israeli territory. On Sept. 12, 2005, the last IDF soldier departs the Gaza Strip, marking a historic step towards peace by Israel.
Jan. 22-27, 2001: Taba Conference. Israel offers even more of the West Bank: territory equivalent to 97 percent of the total land area requested by the Palestinians, including swaps from within pre-1967 Israel. Just a day after Taba ends unsuccessfully, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat delivers an anti-Israel speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, accusing the Israeli government of a "barbarian and cruel war using fascist methods..."
July 11-25, 2000: Camp David Summit. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offers the Palestinians more than 90 percent of the West Bank, which would mean the uprooting of about 40,000 Israeli settlers. The deal would also include Palestinian control over the Christian and Muslim quarters of Jerusalem's old city and other East Jerusalem neighborhoods, as well as religious sovereignty over the Temple Mount, considered Judaism's holiest site and known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). The talks end unsuccessfully.
1994-1999: Israel withdraws from territory as part of the "land-for-peace" deal with the Palestinians. During the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel agreed to gradually withdraw from major population centers in the Palestinian territories, granting the Palestinians self-rule. Israel withdraws from Jericho and parts of Gaza in 1994. The Hebron Protocol, an important step in the Oslo peace process which was signed in 1997, grants the Palestinians control over 80 percent of Hebron - the location of the Cave of the Patriarchs, Judaism's second-holiest site. The Wye and Sharm-el-Sheikh agreements of the late 1990s lead to further Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank.
April 1982: Israel completely withdraws from the Sinai Peninsula.Fulfilling its obligations under the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, Israel removes its soldiers and citizens from the Sinai, an area twice the size of its own territory that it had controlled since winning the defensive Six-Day War in 1967. Despite protests and widespread skepticism among the Israeli public, the IDF evacuates Israeli civilians and bulldozes the town of Yamit under orders from Defense Minister Ariel Sharon - once a champion of the settlement movement. A New York Times news article calls Israel's withdrawal from Sinai a concession "more extensive than any ever made by a country in a comparable position of military strength."
March 26, 1979: Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Israel and Egypt sign a treaty which calls for both nations to demilitarize the Sinai Peninsula; for Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 border, giving up military bases, settlements, roads and the Sinai oil fields; and for Egypt to normalize relations with Israel. Other Arab countries attack the agreement, and Sadat is assassinated by Muslim extremists in 1981. Nevertheless, the treaty holds.
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