Indirect proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians will commence on Wednesday, Ynet learned. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to personally head negotiations, which will be mediated by US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.
Netanyahu is scheduled to depart for Egypt on Monday for a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak.
Netanyahu has decided to enlist his political aide Yitzhak Molcho for the negotiations. Advisors Ron Dermer and Uzi Arad may also be called in to assist if needed. The prime minister will also consult with the forum of seven senior cabinet members. He is interested in keeping an intimate team and to control possible leaks.
In Egypt, Netanyahu hopes to receive more guarantees for the promotion of talks with the Palestinians. He expects Mubarak to appreciate the Israeli demand for absolute security as a condition for any future agreement. He furthermore hopes that the Egyptian president will work towards shortening the duration of indirect negotiations ahead of direct talks.
Netanyahu will be accompanied in Egypt by Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. No press will be invited in order to maintain a low profile. The meeting with Mubarak will mainly focus on the proximity talks.
A number of other issues may also arise during the meeting, including the campaign against smuggling tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border, and the war on radical Islamic terror following recent Sinai travel warnings.
However, one issue is slated to outweigh the rest, and that is the Egyptian claim for a nuclear-free Middle East on the backdrop of the NPT review conference in New York to commence on Monday. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Washington is negotiating a nuclear-free Mideast declaration with Cairo.
Mitchell is scheduled to land in Israel just several hours after the Netanyahu-Mubarak meeting.
Israeli-Palestinian talks are not expected to go smoothly, in light of uncompromising statements made by both sides in recent days.