Israel and the Palestinian Authority are ready to head back to the negotiating table, with hopes that a treaty can be worked out within a year. Reuters reports that the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations—known as the Quartet—will broker the talks, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will issue an invitation on Friday. The Times cited officials who say Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas will travel to the White House in early September to begin the discussions. The news represents a much-needed diplomatic win for the Obama administration, which has been working hard to facilitate the talks, with Clinton working the phone and Middle East envoy George Mitchell shuttling between the two sides.
The talks are likely to center on issues like “the borders of a new Palestinian state, the political status of Jerusalem, security guarantees for Israel and right of return for Palestinian refugees,” the Times reported. The one-year limit was seen as essential to the Palestinians, who were wary of an open-ended back-and-forth with Israel.
If a deal can't be reached, Reuters says there is speculation that the Palestinian Authority could declare independence. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has warned against the offer of "some Mickey Mouse state."
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley emphasized that the talks are to be had between the two countries, but that America will inevitably be playing a significant role: “We, the United States, have always played a special role within this effort, and we will be prepared to assist the parties going forward in moving towards a successful negotiation,” he said. And if they're in need of a meeting place, a certain outgoing CNN host has already offered his services.