U.S. President Barack Obama made a fresh appeal Thursday for Israel and
the Palestinians to jump-start stalled peace negotiations. But getting the two
sides together will not be easy.
Israel and the Palestinians are
trading blame after President Obama's call to resume peace talks. The
right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says
it has been ready to return to the negotiating table since it took
power five months ago. But Israel says the Palestinians imposed an
unacceptable precondition - namely, a complete freeze on settlement
are ready to open up a serious dialogue with the Palestinians without
preconditions, without any further delay," said Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
negotiator Saeb Erekat says his side is not imposing conditions. Rather
it is demanding that Israel fulfill its obligations under the
internationally-backed "Roadmap" peace plan.
"Israel has an obligation under the roadmap to stop settlement activities," said Erekat.
Obama called for a return to peace talks on Thursday, two days after
the Israeli government announced a partial settlement freeze in the
West Bank. While construction projects already underway will continue,
Israel says no new projects have been approved since Mr. Netanyahu took
office in March.
Mr. Obama welcomed the Israeli announcement as
a sign of progress, but the Palestinians say it is a publicity stunt.
Palestinian officials say the current construction of thousands of
Jewish homes will continue for years, creating facts on the ground in
territory claimed for a future Palestinian state.