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Netanyahu (R) and Mahmoud Abbas in Washington
Photo: AFP
Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas in 2008
Photo: Moshe Milner, Government Press Office
Palestinians: Netanyahu to accept understandings reached by Olmert
PA sources say prime minister will respect understandings reached by his predecessors despite his reservations; Palestinians decide renewed settlement construction insufficient reason to stop talks

Palestinian sources said Sunday that Israel agreed that negotiations would not start from scratch, and that in some issues, understandings reached by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will form the basis for talks. Israel, however, denied the Palestinian claims.

 

The Palestinian sources declined to say which issues were involved, but said the understandings dealt with security issues and other fundamental issues. Ynet has learned that one of the issues is the agreement over land exchanges, and the ratio and quality of land exchanged. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so far has not committed himself to understandings reached by President Mahmoud Abbas' predecessor, and sources close to the prime minister continue to deny the Palestinian claims.

 

Ynet has also learned that Palestinian leaders have decided that if Israel's construction freeze in the West Bank is not renewed, this is not a reason to call off the talks, and that the Palestinians will have to learn to live with some building, especially in the main settlement blocs. However, they also expect the US to strongly oppose building in any other territory.

 

Israel ready for crisis around freeze issue

The Palestinians also said they expected American pressure on Israel regarding other issues too, in return for their continued participation in the talks if Israel should continue building.

 

Sources in the Likud said Netanyahu's decision to renew building only "partially" was intended to prevent a crisis with the US on one hand and the breakdown of the talks on the other. They suggested that Netanyahu was intending a building rate similar to that seen during Olmert's term of office, when some 1,500 to 1,700 housing units were built, mostly in the larger settlement blocs.

 

Sources in Jerusalem suspected the attempts to reach a compromise on construction would continue I the coming weeks. The prime minister believes that if Israel does not leave the talks because of the Palestinian refusal to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, the Palestinians should not leave because of construction.

 

However, the same sources said there was a good chance the talks would break down over the construction issue.

 

Attila Somfalvi also contributed to this report.

 

 

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