Abbas angry 248.88 CHECK CAPTION.
(photo credit: AP)
The Palestinian Authority said on Monday it was
studying "new ideas" presented by US Mideast envoy George Mitchell,
including the possibility of launching negotiations at a lower
ministerial level, and not in direct talks between the two leaders.
However, the PA warned that the new ideas were not sufficient to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu termed these new ideas
"interesting" during Sunday's cabinet meeting, and implied that if the
Palestinians accepted them, they could lead into negotiations.
While Netanyahu was tight-lipped regarding the nature of the
new ideas, Reuters on Monday quoted a Palestinian official as saying
they included starting the talks at a level below full-scale
negotiations between the leaders.
Reuters also quoted Palestinian officials as saying
Mitchell proposed confidence-building measures that would include
expanding Area A in the West Bank, where the Palestinians have both
civil and security control; the removal of additional roadblocks; and
the release of a number of Palestinian prisoners. According to
Mitchell's new proposals, these ideas would be discussed by senior
ministers, not by Abbas and Netanyahu themselves.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office would not confirm that
this was what was being discussed. However, both Netanyahu and Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman have said in recent weeks that Israel would
not make any more gestures to the PA to bring them to talks.
at a press conference with the foreign press last week, said that each
time Israel or the international community brought the Palestinians a
ladder to get them off the high tree they have climbed, they just climb
A senior PA official told AFP that Abbas made it clear during
the talks with the US envoy that he would not resume the peace
negotiations unless Israel halted all settlement construction not only
in the West Bank, but in east Jerusalem as well.
The official added that the new ideas also call for Israel to
stop its "incursions" into Palestinian territories and to transfer tax
revenues to the PA on a regular basis.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said it was
"premature" to talk about the resumption of the peace process. He said
that the US was planning to pursue its efforts to achieve a
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, however, sounded a bit more
optimistic, predicting at the Labor party's faction meeting on Monday
that talks would resume in the next month or two.
"On the surface the diplomatic process appears asleep and
frozen, but I don't think that's really accurate," he said. "Under the
surface, both sides want negotiations."
"In the next month or two I think negotiations will restart," he said.
Barak added that while the peace process was not proceeding at the hoped-for pace, "things are definitely happening."
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report