Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected Monday at the weekly cabinet
meeting to make his first public comments on the diplomatic negotiations since
the process went into a tailspin following his decision not to renew the
10-month settlement moratorium that expired last week.
the Succot holiday last week at his home in Caesarea and issued a number of
statements through his office calling on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas not to quit the talks, but did not speak out publicly about the
Pressure mounts on PM to reject US ‘benefits package’
Editorial: Keep talking
While it is likely Netanyahu will address the issue at the
on-camera opening of the meeting, the settlement construction moratorium is not
on the cabinet’s agenda – much to the chagrin of a number of ministers – and no
debate on the matter is expected in the meeting.
It was not yet clear
when Netanyahu would convene his forum of senior ministers, the septet, or the
15-member security cabinet to discuss American proposals for keeping the direct
One government source said Netanyahu is not actively
lobbying ministers yet to support a two-month extension of the settlement freeze
in exchange for various US security and diplomatic commitments, because there is
no concrete proposal yet on the table. It is widely believed that Netanyahu will
not bring the issue to any government forum until he has in hand a list of US
commitments in exchange for extending the moratorium.
are ongoing, no one has raised their arms and surrendered,” a government source
US envoy George Mitchell, who arrived in the region last
Tuesday, was expected to fly back to Washington following his talks in Jordan on
Sunday. In addition to visiting Israel, the PA and Jordan, he also went to Qatar
and Egypt, apparently in an effort to enlist Arab support in getting the PA to
remain in the talks. An Arab League forum is scheduled to decide the matter at a
meeting Friday in Libya.
Mitchell, following a meeting Sunday morning in
Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak before going to Amman, said that
both Israel and the PA, despite their differences, “have asked us to continue
these discussions in an effort to establish the conditions under which they can
continue direct negotiations.
“They both want to continue these
negotiations, they do not want to stop the talks,” he said.
after the meeting in Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit backed
the Palestinians’ refusal to negotiate with Israel as long as it continued to
build West Bank settlements.
“We understand the Palestinian position
which calls for setting the appropriate environment and circumstances for
negotiations to take place and continue,” Aboul Gheit said. “The current
conditions are not favorable.”
Aboul Gheit said the focus now should be
on continued US and international efforts to pressure Israel into agreeing to
extend the settlement moratorium.
Two days earlier, however, he issued
surprising criticism of the Palestinian position of making talks contingent on
the settlement building restrictions, saying the sides should concentrate on
drawing the borders of a future Palestinian state.
Abbas, who met
Mitchell and Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman on Sunday, said following that
meeting that despite serious issues blighting the peace talks, he would continue
to “search for solutions.”
According to news agency reports, Abbas told
reporters that Israel’s refusal to extend the settlement construction freeze is
what has led to the current impasse, but that he would not stop discussions with
the US as a result.
“Of course, we are not going to sever ties with the
Americans, and we will continue to have contacts with them to search for
solutions, but the settlement building should stop and then we will return to
the negotiating table,” he said.
AP contributed to this report.