311_Adam settlement building.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Hopes of averting a breakdown in Middle East peace talks grew Thursday as senior Palestinian officials said their side would consider an expected US-brokered compromise on Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank.
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Two senior Palestinian officials told the AP that US President Barack Obama's special Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell was indeed leading a mediation effort, speaking directly with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The officials, who are close to the negotiations, said the Palestinians are willing to show "some flexibility" on the issue. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
They said one proposal being considered was that Israel would resume
building new projects only in some areas, probably in communities close
to the Israeli border and likely to be retained by Israel in a future
deal as part of a land swap. That idea has been floated by Israel's
relatively moderate deputy premier, Dan Meridor.
But the officials added that at least two other scenarios were also
under discussion, including a three-month extension of the moratorium or
a conditional extension in which the Palestinians would agree to the
"exceptions," in effect legitimizing the building of several hundred new
homes beyond those that were under construction 10 months ago.
The officials did not say who first raised which proposal but said that
all three had been discussed with Mitchell, and that the Palestinians
were waiting for the US envoy to get back to them after discussing the
ideas with Netanyahu.
US and Israeli officials would not confirm the details of the talks.
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