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Abbas enters the talks politically weaker than when he negotiated with Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, in 2007 and 2008.

A formal statement from Abbas‘ office accepting the invitation was expected late Friday. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said he hoped the Quartet and others would work diligently to ensure the one-year timeframe was achieved and would press Israel to end “provocative acts”

“We hope that the Israeli government would refrain from settlement activities, incursions, siege, closures and provocative acts like demolishing of homes, deporting people from Jerusalem in order to give this peace process the chance it deserves,” he said.

But in Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri rejected the invitation.

“We … consider this invitation and the promises included in it empty, and it’s a new attempt to deceive the Palestinian people and international public opinion,” he said.

Abbas‘ Palestinians had been balking at direct talks, saying not until Israel froze the construction of Jewish settlements.

Israel had rejected that, saying it amounted to placing conditions on the negotiations, and had been demanding a separate invitation from the U.S. A temporary freeze on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank is to expire on Sept. 26.

Mitchell said the United States would step in when talks hit rough patches, offering proposals to bridge gaps “as necessary and appropriate.”

“We will be active participants,” he said.

It is not clear whether the United States would eventually draft its own peace plan or remain primarily a referee. Also unclear is whether Obama would convene his own high-stakes peace summit, in the mold of Camp David meetings that succeeded, under Jimmy Carter, and failed, under Bill Clinton.