The Palestinians declared Sunday that indirect talks with Israel have officially started. In the next four months, American envoy George Mitchell will shuttle between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to narrow differences on the terms of Palestinian statehood.
Over the past five days, Mitchell has met twice with Netanyahu and three times with Abbas in final preparations for the talks. On Sunday, after another Abbas-Mitchell meeting, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat announced, according to the AP, that "the proximity talks have started." He added negotiations would focus on the borders of a future Palestinian state and on security arrangements.
In Jerusalem, Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting that the indirect talks must lead to direct negotiations as quickly as possible. "Peace can't be made from a distance or by remote control," he said. "We are neighbors of the Palestinians and they are our neighbors. Over time one cannot assume that that we will reach decisions and agreements on critical issues such as security and our national interests and their interests if we don't sit in the same room."