Quartet reps meet PM envoy Molho in J'lem

International peacemakers come to Israel after meeting Abbas in Ramallah, who refused to hold talks without settlement freeze.

Quartet Mideast envoy Tony Blair 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)
Quartet Mideast envoy Tony Blair 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)
Representatives of the Quartet were meeting in Jerusalem Monday afternoon with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's envoy, Yitzhak Molho.
Quartet members arrived in Israel with little hope of bridging the gulf that divides the Israeli and the Palestinian leadership and has prevented the resumption of negotiations.
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In Ramallah on Sunday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas told US envoy David Hale that the Palestinians would not hold direct talks with Israel unless it froze West Bank settlement activity and stopped construction in east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods.
In addition, Abbas said, Israel must accept the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution.
Abbas also told Hale that the Palestinians are prepared to work with the Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – on all the core issues like Jerusalem, borders, refugees and security, according to chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Reports of the meeting disappointed but did not surprise Israeli officials, who have listened to a similar refrain for close to three years.
Palestinians stopped talking with Israel when it attacked Gaza in December 2008 and refused to resume talks when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office in March 2009.
Except for a few meetings in September 2010, no negotiations have taken place even though Netanyahu has repeatedly called on the Palestinians to talk without preconditions.
In the last months, the Quartet has explored a number of conciliatory formulas, including Palestinian recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, in exchange for a West Bank settlement freeze.
An alternative formula asks the Palestinians to drop their demand for a settlement freeze in exchange for acceptable language on the borders of a two-state solution.
But as of Sunday night, no formula had been found that would bring both sides back to the table.
The meetings Sunday and Monday come just days after a Palestinian bid to bypass talks in favor of unilateral statehood at the United Nations, appeared to have failed.
The Palestinians had asked the UN Security Council to grant it full UN membership; but as of Friday did not have the nine votes need for the initiative to pass.
The US has opposed the move. In his Ramallah meeting with Hale on Sunday, Abbas urged the US administration to reconsider its opposition to the Palestinian application for full membership in the UN.
Abbas, according to Erekat, stressed that the Palestinian statehood bid was not aimed at delegitimizing or isolating Israel, but to achieve the two-state solution.