Jerusalem: Hardliner Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused the Palestinians of stalling
the renewal of direct peace talks, but hoped it could start as
early as mid-August.
"It appears that direct talks will begin in
mid-August, but this has not been confirmed, and we will
become clear in the next few days," Netanyahu told his cabinet
The Israeli premier blamed Palestinian Authority (PA)
President Mahmoud Abbas for the deadlock on the issue of
kickstarting direct talks, telling his ministers that he had
won the support of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and
Jordanian King Abdullah II in favour of launching face-to-face
"I met with Mubarak and Abdullah and talked with them
about direct talks," he said, adding "We took some very
difficult steps, but the Palestinians have done nothing. In
indirect negotiations, both sides spoke with the Americans,
who did not pass information on to the other side."
Abbas has come under intense international pressure to
resume direct talks with Israel, peaking with the Arab League
also backing it earlier this week at a meeting in Cairo.
He has so far resisted the pressures and the PA has
made any such move conditional on Israel implementing a total
freeze on settlement activities in the West Bank and east
Netanyahu, who has defied his overwhelming right-wing
coalition to announce a ten-month temporary freeze on building
activities in the West Bank, today said "there is no change in
settlement freeze conditions".
Political analysts hope that the hardline Israeli
premier can use resumption of direct talks to convince his
coalition to continue with the freeze, amid speculations that
centrist Kadima party may also join the coalition if there is
a breakthrough in peace talks.
Meanwhile, Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat,
told Israeli daily Ha`aretz that the PA has submitted a
far-reaching peace proposal to the US administration that is
more generous to Israel than the demands presented by Abbas to
former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Erekat also said the PA`s detailed offer would end the
conflict with Israel and resolve all Palestinian claims.
"I presented Senator George Mitchell (US special envoy
to the Middle East) with a series of official documents," the
PA chief negotiator said.
"We gave him maps and papers that clearly state our
positions on all the final-status issues: borders, Jerusalem,
refugees, water and security. Thus far we have not received
any answer from the Israeli side," he said.
When asked if the Palestinian positions were similar
to those presented during talks with Olmert, Erekat quipped:
"It`s more than that. I cannot go into details on what exactly
was proposed, but Abu Mazen [nom de guerre for Abbas] offered
more in these documents than what he proposed to Olmert in the
past. Abu Mazen took bigger steps to reach peace."
Earlier this year, Erekat distributed a document to
European diplomats saying the PA had offered Olmert a swap
that would let Israel annex 1.9 percent of the West Bank.
The document also claimed that the PA had expressed a
willingness to accept an Israeli proposal to allow 15,000
Palestinian refugees to return to the country every year over
International media outlets reported earlier this year
that the PA had agreed to land swaps equaling 2.3 percent,
while another report said it had accepted a swap of 3.8
Erekat confirmed Ha`aretz that the Palestinians have
become more flexible on this issue. He denied reports in the
Arab media over the weekend that the US administration had
threatened sanctions against PA, warning to even severe
ties,if Abbas did not agree to enter direct talks with Israel
over a final-status agreement.
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian lawmaker and a member
of the PLO central committee, told the pan-Arab daily Al-Quds
Al-Arabi that Washington "applied tremendous pressures on PA
so that it would move to direct talks."
Ashrawi had said the United States threatened to
downgrade or even sever ties with Abbas led PA.