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Israel Welcomes Arab League Call for Israeli-Palestinian Talks

Israel has welcomed a decision by the Arab League giving a green light to a U.S. proposal for indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

According to Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev, "I hope we see the resumption of talks. I think it's in everyone's interest."

Peace talks broke down more than a year ago, and the Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table until Israel freezes all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians rejected Israel's offer of a partial freeze.

Regev says Israel has been ready to resume peace talks all along. "And unfortunately that's been held up until now because the Palestinian side, unfortunately, has piled on preconditions," Regev said.

The United States has also pressured Israel for a freeze on construction in the settlements, on grounds that they are an obstacle to peace. But the U.S. has not made a settlement freeze a precondition for peace talks. To bridge the gaps, the U.S. proposed indirect talks, which will probably involve shuttle diplomacy by an American mediator between the Israeli government in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank town of Ramallah. The U.S. will look for points of agreement that will enable the resumption of direct negotiations.

Expectations are low for a breakthrough in the four-month period designated by the Arab League for the talks. But a starting point is seen as an important step toward breaking the deadlock.