Good faith negotiations with the Palestinians can impede attempts to isolate Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio Monday, following the Jordanian government's announcement that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet in Amman Tuesday for direct talks.

"It's important that it be clear that Israel is active in a real way," Barak said. "It can hinder the effectiveness of attempts to isolate us internationally."

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Noting that alternatives to the two-state solution "are bad," Barak said that Israel
has a "responsibility" to try reducing tensions with its neighbors. "There's no reason not to work toward reducing tension with the Palestinians, with the Turks and the Egyptians. Even if it's not certain we'll see results."

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed the announcement of the first public direct meeting between the two sides in more than a year, calling on them to "take advantage of this opportunity."

One Israeli official said there have been intensive behind-the-scenes talks over the last few days between Israel, the Palestinians, Jordan and the Quartet – made up of the US, EU, Russia and the UN – to arrange the talks.

Israel will be represented by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho, and the Palestinians are expected to be represented by PA negotiator Saeb Erekat.

"We welcome and support this positive development. I applaud the efforts of the [Jordanian] King [Abdullah] and Foreign Minister [Nasser] Judeh to bring the parties together and encourage them to approach these meetings constructively," the US secretary of state said.

Clinton added: "We are hopeful that this direct exchange can help move us forward on the pathway proposed by the Quartet. As  the [US] President [Barack Obama] and I have said before, the need for a lasting peace is more urgent than ever. The status quo is not sustainable and the parties must act boldly to advance the cause of peace."

The Palestinian Authority, however, tempered expectations of the meeting, emphasizing that it did not signify a renewal of negotiations.

Wasl Abu Yossef, a senior figure in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's umbrella PLO executive, described Tuesday's meeting as a forum for the sides to "offer their positions on security and borders" as requested by the Quartet in October.

"This is not a resumption of negotiations," Abu Yossef told Reuters in Ramallah, the seat of Abbas's administration.

Erekat said the meeting would be "part of ongoing Jordanian efforts to compel Israel to comply with its international legal obligations ... specifically its obligation to freeze all settlement construction".

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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