Proximity talks with the Palestinians have yet to be launched in practice, Jerusalem officials said on Wednesday, after a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.
The source cited the Palestinian decision to wait until after a Palestinian Liberation Organization Central Committee meeting on Saturday, where the Palestinian stance will be presented.
"Today's meeting was good and constructive," diplomatic sources said of Netanyahu's meeting with Mitchell. The sources refrained from repeating previous reports that Wednesday's meeting was meant to mark the start of proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu's media adviser Nir Hefetz said at the end of the meeting, "The prime minister and Senator Mitchell met this evening for a three-hour work meeting, and decided to meet again tomorrow."
Part of the meeting was held in private, and the rest of the meeting was attended by Netanyahu's advisers Uzi Arad and Yitzhak Molcho, and Mitchell's aides Dan Shapiro and David Hale.
Israel accuses the Palestinians of delaying the peace process by failing so far to declare their plans to launch proximity talks.
Ministers and other diplomatic sources said on Wednesday that, under these circumstances, they are skeptical of both parties' ability to make any progress.
"We are waiting for Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas). As far as we are concerned, preparations are complete. The talks with Mitchell were good and constructive and will continue tomorrow as well," a source from the Prime Minister's Office said.
Netanyahu (R) with Mitchell on Wednesday (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO)
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with his Czech counterpart Jan Kohout and said, "The very fact we are holding talks with the Palestinians is important, but I am still wondering about their intentions. It is unreasonable to hold negotiations on the one hand and commemorate terrorism on the other, by naming streets after terrorists such as Yehya Ayash."
"The Palestinians' indecision about entering negotiations while giving all sorts of excuses raises doubts as to the seriousness of the other side. I hope that despite this we will manage to hold talks in a proper manner," Lieberman added.
"The fact that Israel has given the Palestinians a permit for an additional Palestinian cellular provider despite the Authority's decision to ban all Israeli cellular products is a very strange thing," he said.
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said during a memorial ceremony for Major Eliraz Peretz, "We do not want to rule over our neighbors – they rule over themselves, which is the way it should be. But that doesn't mean Jews don't and will not have a right to live in their settlements in the West Bank. We are willing to resume direct negotiations with their leadership to discuss their future and our future relations with them, but without preconditions – and they refuse."
"When and if we enter such negotiations, we will be willing to make progress on many subjects that will significantly improve the lives of Arabs living under the control of the Palestinian Authority," Ya'alon added, " This goes hand in hand with our values and interests, but we will not engage in a political process like the one we've experienced since the Oslo agreement, in which we gave assets and got terror in return."