Circumventing direct talks unrealistic: Israel on peace talks

Israel`s PM Benjamin Netanyahu asked Palestinians to restrain from initiating unilateral measures towards statehood as he made a plea to them to give direct talks a chance in a bid to resurrect the faltering peace talks.

Updated: Oct 24, 2010, 20:14 PM IST

Jerusalem: Israel`s Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday asked Palestinians to restrain from
initiating unilateral measures towards statehood as he made a
plea to them to give direct talks a chance in a bid to
resurrect the faltering peace talks.

As the Palestinian Authority and Israel remain locked
over the issue of settlements, Netanyahu said his country was
working closely with the United States on ways to break the
deadlock on peace talks.

He said suggestions of Palestinians approaching
international bodies to seek statehood would not be
unrealistic.

"We expect Palestinians to fulfil their commitment to
hold the direct talks. I think that any attempt to circumvent
them by going to international bodies is not realistic and it
will not advance the real diplomatic process," Netanyahu told
his cabinet today.

The US-mediated peace talks that kicked off in
Washington on September 2 have been faltering over Palestinian
demands for a total freeze of Israeli construction in the West
Bank and east Jerusalem.

Israel, on the other hand is said to be moving fast
with new constructions in the West Bank after a unilateral 10
month freeze ended on September 26, with some peace
organisations claiming that the pace is four times faster than
ever witnessed in the controversial area.

Amid the frustration of the deadlock, new ideas have
been floated by Palestinian leaders and intellectuals, some of
whom have called for abandoning negotiations with Israel
altogether and launch a diplomatic campaign to seek
recognition for a Palestinian state by the United Nations and
other international organisations.

PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib said if peace efforts
failed, Palestinian aspirations for statehood should not be
"held hostage" to Israeli consent.

A close aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud last
week suggested that the PA ask the United Nations Security
Council to declare the West Bank settlements "illegal".

"Peace will be achieved only through direct
negotiations and I hope that we will return to this path with
full force in the very near future," Netanyahu said at the
weekly cabinet meeting.

"Israel was engaged in close contacts with the United
States" aimed at restarting peace talks which the Palestinians
suspended when the settlement freeze expired, he added.

Local media reports have said that Washington has
offered Israel a package of incentives, including ideas on
security, to persuade Netanyahu to resume the partial freeze
on building activities for two months.

The Israeli premier can use the extended benefits to
convince his overwhelming right-wing coalition to support the
effort. "Our aim is not just to restart (talks) but to restart
them in a way so that we do not stop in a few weeks or two
months," Netanyahu said.

He called for a year of "serious negotiations about
fundamental issues" leading to a peace deal framework.

Palestinians fear that the settlements Israel has
built in the West Bank and east Jerusalem on land captured
during the Six Day War in 1967 will deny them a viable state
and make peace efforts complicated under changed ground
realities.

PTI