Netanyahu lauds U.S. movement on "core issues"

09:36, December 14, 2010      

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday praised the decision by the United States not to demand a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank.

"The decision is good for Israel and good for peace," Netanyahu told attendees at a business conference in Tel Aviv, adding that he hoped to "narrow gaps", in positions between Israel and the Palestinians.

"To reach peace, we have to discuss the issues that are truly delaying peace," Netanyahu said, mentioning the so-called core issues of "security, refugees, and recognition of the Jewish State. " The United States also wants Israel to discuss future borders with a Palestinian state.

After a three-month absence, U.S. envoy George Mitchell is due in Israel Monday evening, and will meet with Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and with Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Mitchell's last foray in peacemaking between the sides was a three-way meeting on Sept. 15 this year. But talks broke down shortly thereafter over Israel's refusal to extend a self-imposed 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank that ended on Sept. 26.

Israel, according to Netanyahu, was willing to consider a second 90-day moratorium, but "the Americans understood that the Palestinians will only start talking about significant matters on the 90th day of the second freeze."

Meanwhile, Fatah's Central Committee on Sunday came out against indirect negotiations, according to Palestinian media.

Abbas' adviser and senior Palestine Liberation Organization ( PLO) leader Yasser Abed Rabbo said he believed that the PNA would reject the U.S. demand to resume peace talks.

"We don't want to return to indirect talks to once again discuss agendas for the negotiations because we will then waste another year," he said, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Arab League foreign ministers are expected to meet on Wednesday, at Abbas' request, to discuss the U.S. decision to drop the demand for another freeze, according to the Post.

Israel, according to Israeli opposition leader and Kadima Party chief Tsipi Livni, is at a strategic disadvantage because of the failure of the direct talks.

"It must be understood that reaching a peace deal is an Israeli interest and not a favor to the U.S.," Livni told Israel Radio on Monday, in comment over a proposal by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at the Brookings Institution's Saban forum on Friday.

"I believe that the relations between Israel and the United States are existential to the future of the state of Israel," Livni said, in a joint interview with PNA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad that aired on Sunday on the ABC television network.

Fayyad, when asked about the prospect of a proposed unilateral declaration of statehood, said, "what we are committed to is statehood. Not a declaration of statehood, we're looking for a state. We did make a declaration of statehood (in) 1988. This time we're looking for a real state on the ground," the Ynet news site reported.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, speaking in Washington several days ago, said Jerusalem would be divided with Arab neighborhoods coming under Palestinian control, a position that directly contradicts the government policy which considers Jerusalem Israel's "sovereign and eternal capital."

However, Netanyahu issued a statement saying that "Barak's statements on Jerusalem do not reflect government policy, but his political agenda as Labor chairman.

Source: Xinhua

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