16 Hours in September

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Ephron

Washington's decision to stop pushing Israel for a settlement freeze could well mean no direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians for months, even years; a stalemate is likely at least until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reconfigures his coalition or leaves office in 2013. But would face-to-face talks between Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have made a difference? Details NEWSWEEK has learned about three negotiating sessions the men held in September--16 hours of talks--suggest not.

The negotiations took place in Washington, Jerusalem, and Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt--with more meetings between advisers. A Palestinian official involved in the talks and an Israeli source familiar with the details say the gaps were wide. The sources, who didn't want to be named discussing private negotiations, say Netanyahu told the Palestinians they had to accept Israel's "security concept" before he would discuss other issues, including borders. The concept involved keeping Israeli troops stationed along territory on the Palestinian side of the barrier Israel has built in the West Bank to protect what Israel calls its "narrow waistline." That strip would be several kilometers wide at some points, says the Palestinian negotiator, and run along much of the seam line. …