Netanyahu with arms wide open 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On the eve of a much-anticipated breakthrough in the deadlocked peace process,
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is remaining firm in his position that no
preconditions should be set for direct talks with the Palestinians, officials
told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday night.
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It’s a stance that sets
Netanyahu in opposition to the Quartet, which is expected to issue a statement
within 24 to 48 hours that likely includes preconditions that it hopes would be
used as a basis for such talks.
Although the US is a member of the
Quartet, it has been working separately to push the two sides together, and at
present Israel has shown a preference for the American efforts.
Quartet statement is a fig leaf. We would accept only an American statement that
would not include preconditions,” an official told the Post
, adding that Israel
hoped direct talks would start over the weekend or at least by next
The Palestinians, in contrast, want to push forward on the basis of
a March 19 Quartet statement, which they assume would be reiterated now,
including the Quartet’s support for dividing Jerusalem and calling on Israel to
halt settlement construction.
The PA has asked the US to agree to this
proposal as well.
As of press time, David Hale, an assistant to US
special envoy George Mitchell, was meeting with PA President Mahmoud
He was expected to deliver the US response to the Palestinian
proposal. Palestinian officials told the Post
late Sunday night that Abbas had
decided to call a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee to discuss whether to
enter direct talks with Israel.
The committee is likely to meet Monday or
Tuesday, and Abbas is not expected to state his position on direct talks until
after the meeting.
Should Abbas agree to resume direct negotiations with
Israel, which broke off in December 2008, it would be on the understanding that
Israel would extend the 10- month moratorium on new settlement construction past
its expiration date of September 26.
The PA, however, is expected to back
away from its demand that Israel halt all settlement construction as a
precondition for talks, and settle instead for a statement by the
Israel should not be building in West Bank settlements.
official, however, said that Netanyahu had not changed his stance that
moratorium would end on September 26.
As he prepared to leave for Greece
on Monday for what would be the first visit there by an Israeli premier,
Netanyahu met with the members of his inner cabinet, known as the
According to media reports, the septet endorsed Netanyahu’s stance not
to accept the Quartet statement on
the understanding that it would set preconditions for talks – some of
Israel has long opposed, such as a halt to all settlement
It preferred instead to wait for a statement about the
talks from the Americans, which could also be issued this week.
officials reiterated that since taking office, Netanyahu had wanted to
direct talks with the Palestinians and hoped that the Palestinians would