Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom said on Thursday that
US-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians could begin next week,
though neither side has formally given any such date.
understand, today, I think that the Palestinians will decide to come
next week," Shalom told reporters during a meeting with the Palestinians
"But of course it's not something that I can speak of
on behalf of the Palestinians. If they will do so, as I said, the
negotiations will start next Tuesday in Washington."
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office had no immediate comment on Shalom's remarks.
Wednesday, Netanyahu told reporters: "I hope that soon we will be able
to see the beginning of peace talks (with the Palestinians). Our team is
ready. We have always been ready."
Israeli officials said the
prime minister, who faces skepticism about the prospect of
new negotiations from religious-nationalist members of his coalition
government, might hold off on sending negotiators to Washington until
after he secured the approval of his cabinet when it convenes on Sunday.
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas'd spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said the
Palestinians awaited an invitation from the United States.
Palestinian delegation is ready," he told Reuters. "We are committed to
the meeting that was agreed to be held in Washington to discuss the
Justice Minister and chief Israeli peace negotiator
Tzipi Livni, and Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molho, are set to meet with
chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Washington to discuss the
terms for renewing talks.
US Secretary of State John Kerry
announced on Friday that the sides had laid the groundwork for new peace
talks after an almost three-year stalemate, and that he expected them
to send negotiators to Washington soon.
Israel says it is ready for the relaunch of talks without preconditions, but the Palestinians have sought reassurances
about delineating the borders of the state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called Livni and Abbas on
Wednesday, urging them to rapidly resume direct peace talks, Kuwait News
Agency (KUNA) reported on Thursday.
Fabuis told Abbas and Livni
of "the determination of France to support the peace efforts and favor
the conclusion of an agreement putting an end to the conflict."
Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will present a draft of his
referendum bill to the cabinet, Israel media reported on Thursday. If
passed, the referendum law would elevate the existing legislation to
require that any peace agreement be brought to the public for a vote.