Israeli sources reported that this coming Sunday could witness an official declaration for the beginning of American-mediated indirect Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. The sources expressed optimism that the mission of U.S. Middle East Envoy, George Mitchell, have a good chance to succeed while Israel will not be asked to declare settlement freeze.The sources stated that Israel intends to conduct what is being described as “good-will gestures” by Sunday, including removing roadblocks, releasing a limited number of detainees, and handing “power” to the Palestinian Authority in certain areas.
Mitchell will be holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, before he meets Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.
Israeli daily, Yedioth Aharonoth, reported Friday that the U.S. administration agreed to the resumption of indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians without any Israeli commitment to freeze its settlement activities in Jerusalem.
The paper was quoting a senior Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity. It reported that the official said that “Israel hopes the United States administration will understand the Israeli position regarding not being able to freeze settlement activities in Jerusalem”.
“Now, we hope the Palestinians will come to the same conclusion”, the official added, “The United States will pressure Abbas to resume indirect talks with Israel without any Israeli commitment to freeze settlement construction”.
Middle East Policy Specialist at the White House, Dan Shapiro, arrived in the Middle East on Thursday and held talks with a Netanyahu’s advisers, before he went to Jordan where he held a meeting with Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, and handed him a letter from Obama.
The letter is said to be aiming at having Abbas “calm down” before the resumption of the talks, and asking him to trust U.S. efforts and mediation.
On Thursday, Netanyahu told Israeli Channel 2 that Israel will not freeze settlement activities, and will not accept any preconditions.