Netanyahu: Both Israel and the Palestinians need peace

Abbas, Mitchell meet amid US efforts to renew talks; PA official: Erekat asked for "US guarantees and answers before returning to negotiations."

December 14, 2010 16:41
2 minute read.
PM Binyamin Netanyahu and US envoy George Mitchell

Netanyahu and George Mitchell 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that his meeting with US Mideast envoy George Mitchell had been "very good."

Speaking at the Galilee conference in Beit Shean, the prime minister said that the two "spoke about ways to advance the peace process, because that is Israel's aim. Everyone needs peace, including the Palestinians, and I hope they will answer to that need."

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"Peace will open up the entire region, including the Galilee," Netanyahu added.

Meanwhile, Mitchell and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were meeting in Ramallah on Tuesday afternoon, amid US efforts to renew stalled peace talks.

Mitchell met with Netanyahu on Monday night, and is set to travel to Doha and then back to Washington after the Abbas meeting.

Mitchell arrived back in the region on Monday to discuss the core issues separately with each side in the hope that gaps could be narrowed and direct negotiations restarted.

The question of which issue to tackle first has long been a major point of dispute between the sides, with the Palestinians wanting to focus first on borders and Jerusalem, and Israel on refugees, recognition and security.

The sequence is significant, because Israel is concerned that if the Palestinians get what they want on the border issue, they will not be forthcoming on any of the issues that come later, such as refugees.

And the Palestinians argue that if they cave in up front on recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel will have no incentive to be forthcoming on borders or Jerusalem.

Prior to the Ramallah meeting, a Palestinian Authority official on Tuesday said that Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat had delivered a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week asking for "US guarantees and answers before returning to any negotiations, direct or indirect," AFP reported.

The statement demanded "a complete halt to settlement in the West Bank and east Jerusalem," according to the report.

Additionally, it reportedly called on the US to either recognize a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders or to not prevent the Palestinians from seeking such recognition from the UN Security Council.

The Palestinian source said that Abbas expected to receive an answer to the letter from Mitchell during their meeting.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report

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