The peace negations between Israel
and the Palestinians are expected to resume in June, a senior Israeli official said Thursday amid US Secretary of State John Kerry's intensive efforts to jumpstart the stalled talks.
"Israel has presented to the United States a list of measures it is willing to take, including freezing or slowing the pace of construction outside the settlement blocs," said the official, who is familiar with the talks between Jerusalem and Washington. "Now we are awaiting a response from the Palestinian side. They must express their opinion and willingness, but the overall direction is the resumption of talks in the near future."
The Palestinians recently announced their willingness to resume economic negotiations with Israel, after refusing for years, since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
began his second term, to conduct such talks for fear that "economic peace" would be an alternative to a "diplomatic peace" that would lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
On Wednesday Justice Minister Tzipi Livni
and Attorney Yitzhak Molcho met with Kerry
in Rome. Kerry and Livni, who is in charge of the negotiations with the Palestinians, said they were optimistic regarding the possibility that talks would resume soon. Molcho is Prime Minister Netanyahu's aide.
Kerry and Livni in Rome (Photo: Reuters)
Kerry is expected to visit the region in two weeks for a series of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials, and in the meantime Washington is applying pressure on the Palestinians to return to the negotiation table. The American pressure has led the Arab League to soften its peace initiative from 2002.
Speaking on behalf of an Arab League delegation to Washington last week, Qatari Prime Minister Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani called for an agreement between Israel and a future Palestine based on the Jewish state's border before the 1967 Six-Day War.
But, unlike in previous such offers, he cited the possibility of "comparable," mutually agreed and "minor" land swaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Resigning Palestinian PM Fayyad (L) with President Abbas (Photo: EPA)
Livni welcomed the statement, saying it opens the door for renewed peace talks. The Arab League's announcement is expected to make it easier for the Palestinian Authority to retract its demand for a complete halt to Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.
Netanyahu's associates dismissed recent reports in the Arab press regarding Israel's agreement to ease security restrictions in the Palestinian territories, but an official told Ynet Israel would be willing to take measures that would ease daily life in the PA.
According to the official, Israel would apparently be willing to ease traffic restrictions on Palestinian residents of the West Bank and release a certain number of Palestinian prisoners. This has not been confirmed.
Other officials said Israel would not agree to any Palestinian preconditions, but it appears that Netanyahu is interested in resuming talks as soon as possible and take steps, at Washington's behest, that would persuade the Palestinians to return to the negotiation table.
"Things will become clearer in the coming weeks," one official said. "In Israel there is a genuine interest to reach understandings that would facilitate peace talks. We won't see written agreements with the Americans, but we'll see the results on the ground."
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