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Palestinians Reject Israeli Push for Direct Peace Talks

  • Robert Berger

Israel and the Palestinians have reached the half-way point of indirect peace talks mediated by the United States.

After two months of indirect peace talks slated to last four months, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have differing visions about how to proceed.

U.S. envoy George Mitchell has been shuttling between Jerusalem and the West Bank, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it is time to move on to a new framework. He had this message for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"The best way to convince Israelis that you're serious about peace is to begin serious, direct peace negotiations and I'm ready to begin them any time," said Benjamin Netanyahu. "I'm ready to meet President Abbas today and tomorrow and the next day, at any place."

The Palestinians opted for indirect talks in protest over Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says moving to direct talks would be premature.

"Those indirect talks have just begun, not a long time ago, and we've yet to see the kind of progress that would begin to justify consideration of that particular outcome," said Salam Fayyad.

The talks are dealing with the core issues of the conflict: the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements and the final borders of a Palestinians state. Israel says territorial concessions are unthinkable if the Palestinians are unwilling to sit down and talk, face to face.

Mr. Netanyahu says he will push for direct talks when he meets with President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday.