PM to meet Mubarak, discuss PA talks

Netanyahu tells Likud: "The whole world knows we safeguard Jerusalem."

Mubarak Netanyahu 311  (photo credit: Associated Press)
Mubarak Netanyahu 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu plans to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm e-Sheikh on Monday to discuss the resumption of proximity talks with the Palestinians, possibly as early as next week.
The visit was finalized in a phone conversation between the two leaders on Tuesday.
“On Monday I will go to Egypt to meet with President Mubarak, who is working for the renewal of talks,” Netanyahu told Likud activists in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night.
“For an entire year we have called for a renewal of [direct] talks,” said Netanyahu. “We are not against peace, but rather in favor of peace.
“We ask for real peace in which we work on the basis of Israeli interests of mutuality, on a solution regarding return, on recognizing the State of Israel as Jewish and demanding to hold negotiations without preconditions,” he said.
Netanyahu would have preferred to hold direct talks, but has accepted the Palestinian position that only “proximity” talks are acceptable at this point.
In a Channel 2 interview Monday night, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas indicated his willingness to resume the US-sponsored proximity talks.
He plans to head to an Arab League meeting of foreign ministers onSaturday, where it is expected he will seek endorsement for the talks.
PMO, Yishai deny rumored plan to shelve new housing
Sourcesclose to Abbas continued to claim on Tuesday that the Netanyahugovernment has promised to freeze all controversial housing projects inJerusalem to pave the way for the resumption of the peace talks.
Thesources said that according to understandings reached between the USadministration and Israel, the government would shelve plans to build1,600 new homes in Ramat Shlomo that had halted the launch of proximitytalks in early March, and would refrain from similar “provocations” inthe city in the future.
But the Prime Minister’s Office and Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Tuesday denied that any such plan existed.
Yishaisaid that construction as well as development and planning work wouldcontinue for Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.
On Tuesday night, Netanyahu told Likud activists, “the whole world knows how we safeguard Jerusalem.”
ChiefPA negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday that the PA won’t resumepeace talks with Israel unless Netanyahu cancels the new housingproject in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood.
The PA is alsodemanding assurances that the Israeli government would refrain frompublishing new tenders for such projects or adding new homes to Jewishneighborhoods in east Jerusalem, Erekat said.
His remarks cameduring a meeting with David Hale, US deputy assistant secretary ofstate for Near Eastern affairs, and US Consul-General Daniel Rubinstein.
Halearrived last week. He was joined over the weekend by US special envoyGeorge Mitchell, who left on Sunday but who is expected to return nextweek.
Erekat did not comment on unconfirmed reports that the peace talks could be resumed as early as next week.
Erekat said that peace and settlements were “two parallels that can’t meet.”
Hesaid that if the Netanyahu government wanted to give the USadministration a chance to make peace in the Middle East, it shouldhalt all settlement construction in the West Bank and all building ineast Jerusalem, including “natural growth” in these communities.
Erekatsaid Israel should also remove all settlement outposts that wereestablished after March 2001, allow closed PLO and PA institutions inJerusalem to reopen, release all Palestinian prisoners and lift theclosure and blockade imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip,respectively.
Nabil Shaath, a former PA minister and one of thearchitects of the Oslo Accords, was quoted on Tuesday as saying that itwould be “impossible” for the Palestinians to make peace with Israel aslong as Netanyahu was in power.
Shaath, who is closelyaffiliated with Abbas, expressed hope that US pressure on Netanyahuwould force him to resign, paving the road for a new coalitiongovernment that would launch peace talks with the Palestinians.”
“We can’t negotiate with him [Netanyahu] while he’s continuing to build settlements on our lands,” the Palestinian daily Al-Qudsquoted Shaath as saying. “We also can’t negotiate while Israel isdeporting and detaining any Palestinian in the West Bank who doesn’thave an Israeli permit.”
Shaath said that although thePalestinians were facing “the most difficult government in the historyof Israel,” there should be no room for frustration.
He addedthat the Palestinians were encouraged by the growing disillusionment ofthe US administration and the international community with Israel’sactions and policies.
Shaath said that US Vice President JoeBiden, who recently visited Ramallah, told Palestinian leaders that“these Israelis don’t understand that their actions are endangering thelives of nearly 200,000 US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.”