PM says success of talks depends on "seriousness" of Palestinians.
By JPOST.COM STAFF, HERB KEINON
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday sounded optimistic about the chances for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, ahead of his trip to a peace summit in Washington."I am convinced that if the Palestinian leadership approaches these talks with the same degree of seriousness as we will be able to advance toward a stable agreement that will ensure peace and security for both peoples and will contribute to the security and stability of the region. I am aware of the difficulties; I do not make light of them. I know that there will be many potholes, but the basic question is whether the Palestinian side will be as willing as the Israeli side to advance towards a peace that will resolve this conflict for generations to come," Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting."RELATED:Guess who's coming to dinnerErekat rejects fortnightly meetings planRamon claims to be victim of PM's stingHe added, "We can reach a stable peace for us and our children and that is my goal."The prime minister has studiously avoided going into the specific goals of the Israeli negotiating team that will attend the peace summit at the White House in his cabinet address."On Tuesday, I will leave for Washington to launch the direct talks between us and the Palestinians. We have insisted that these talks be held without pre-conditions and thus it will be," said Netanyahu.Netanyahu did declare at Sunday's cabinet meeting that Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor's proposal regarding building in the settlements were only Meridor's opinion and do not represent the government's official position on the issue.Meridor had said that regular construction should continue only in the settlement blocs that are likely to be annexed to Israel as part of any future agreement with the Palestinians, while building in other settlements should be restricted to "natural growth."Earlier, the Jerusalem Post reported that Netanyahu was expected to reject a call to extend the settlement construction freeze and is likely to make clear again, before he departs to Washington on Tuesday, that the settlements are an issue – like all the other core issues – to be discussed in the negotiations themselves.AdvertisementSenior government officials have said recently that Netanyahu does not intend to get drawn into a public discussion now on the issue, since it would be tantamount to debating the Palestinians’ preconditions for talks, which he has made clear Israel has rejected.Netanyahu is set to leave Tuesday for Washington for the relaunch of the talks. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to meet US President Barack Obama before an evening dinner that will include Obama, Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah II, and Quartet envoy Tony Blair.
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