Israel wants peace talks, Palestinians say 'not yet'

Sunday, July 11, 2010 |  Israel Today Staff

In interviews with the American media on the weekend following his visit to the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his message that he is ready to immediately sit down with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and negotiate a final status peace agreement.

"You cannot resolve a conflict, you cannot successfully complete a peace negotiation if you don't start it. And I say let's start it right now, today, tomorrow, in Jerusalem, in Ramallah or anywhere else," Netanyahu told CNN interviewer Larry King.

But Netanyahu insisted this time around the Israelis and Palestinians must stop bickering over small points and look forward to a comprehensive and general peace so that the region can move on from conflict.

"Going at it piecemeal, piece by piece, is just to have a thousand cuts without seeing where this thing leads," he told the Council on Foreign Relations.

Netanyahu said he impressed these points upon US President Barack Obama when they met in the Oval Office last week, and the White House confirmed that Obama had followed up by phoning Abbas and insisting that direct Israeli-Palestinian talks begin by September.

But on Saturday Abbas said he was happy to continue indirect US-hosted peace talks, at least until the American pressure results in more Israeli concessions.

"We said that if there is progress we will go to direct talks. If no progress happens, what is the benefit of negotiations that will be futile and useless?" Abbas asked reporters in Ramallah.

Abbas then appeared to throw a wrench in plans to resume peace negotiations when he set the precondition that under any final status peace deal, all Jewish communities deemed to be built on "Palestinian land" must be fully dismantled, including the large Jewish neighborhoods on the eastern side of Jerusalem.

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