by Neville Teller
"No reports of progress" is far from the same as "reports of no progress". It's the former we are faced with as regards the proximity talks that apparently had their first round on Sunday 9 May, not the latter,
It was ten days ago that the first round of the long-awaited proximity talks between
Had anything in fact taken place on 9 May? Not according to Reuters, who last Tuesday (18 May), reported that "the first substantive sessions" since the Palestinians agreed to the indirect "proximity" talks had just started. On the other hand during his daily press briefing the day before (Monday 17 May), US State Department spokesman, Philip J Crowley, said: "both sides have agreed to begin to address core issues. I can't tell you where we are in that process. But in doing so … our objective … is to begin to make progress and, as rapidly as possible, move the parties into direct negotiations." Which indicates that the process was already well advanced, though
But dead silence certainly does not signify dead in the water. If that had been the outcome, we should certainly have heard all about it, for rumour has it that the White House has a contingency plan up its sleeve, to be produced with a flourish if things go wrong – an international peace summit, to be held under the auspices of the Quartet.
There are a few clues as to what might have been discussed. Just prior to the start, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian'
He then provided his interviewer with a short, but not insignificant, addendum. "These talks will be with the
And, of course, in one sense he is not incorrect. Both sides – the Israelis and the Palestinians – will indeed be talking not to each other, but to George Mitchell, President Obama's special
All those concerned agree that this preliminary phase of proximity talks should be followed as soon as possible by direct face-to face discussions. "As time goes by," Benjamin Netanyahu,
In the statement issued by the White House following the call, the President is reported to have stressed that he intends to hold both sides accountable for "actions that undermine trust during the talks."
It might almost be assumed that, among such actions, would be leaking accounts of what has taken place during the discussions, particularly if the leaks issue forth with a spin on them. Perhaps all parties have adopted a self-denying ordinance as regards relations with the media, at least until there is something substantive to report.