Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday expressed hope that the visits of US Vice President Joe Biden and special Mideast envoy George Mitchell to Israel next week will help restart the peace process with the Palestinians, even if it would initially be in the form of indirect negotiations.

“Joe Biden has been a friend of the State of Israel for many years,” Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting. “He has been a personal friend of mine for almost 30 years and I am convinced that this important visit to our region will contribute to advancing the diplomatic process and there are indications to this effect.”

“I welcome the developments that, I hope, will lead to the start of talks with [former] Senator George Mitchell's visit to Israel next week.  He is doing very important work, which we appreciate. We welcome the start of talks, even if they are proximity talks,” the premier said of Wednesday’s Arab League backing of indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“In the end, our goal is to try and reach a peace agreement with our Palestinian neighbors via direct talks, but we have always said that we do not necessarily insist on this format,” Netanyahu continued. “If this is what is necessary to start the process – Israel is ready.  I think that there is international recognition that this Government wants to start a peace process and I tell you that we also want to complete it."

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