- Obama not worried about Ebola at upcoming African summit in D.C.
- Obama: ‘We tortured some folks’ after 9/11
- Obama administration asked whole D.C. Circuit to take on major Obamacare case
- Mark Levin: Topple GOP leadership or country will ‘unravel’
- Massachusetts to let police chief deny gun buys to those deemed unfit
- John Kerry condemns attack on Israeli soldiers, kidnapping
- U.S. starts to evacuate American Ebola patients from West Africa: Report
- Geraldo slammed as ‘dummy’ for backing Clinton’s bin Laden claim
- Israeli spokesman: No need to debate who broke the cease-fire
- 35 Palestinians killed; Israeli officer missing
Israeli, Palestinian negotiators quietly meet
Question of the Day
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been meeting quietly in recent weeks in hopes of ending a three-year standstill in peace efforts, both sides confirmed Sunday.
Officials acknowledged the agenda of the recent talks has been modest, and they stressed there is no breakthrough in sight. Nonetheless, the revelations gave a small sign of hope that a formula can be found to restart formal negotiations addressing core issues.
Peace talks broke down in December 2008 and have remained frozen ever since. The Palestinians say they will not resume negotiations until Israel halts settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, occupied lands claimed by the Palestinians for a future state. The Palestinians also want Israel to accept its pre-1967 boundaries, before Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem, as the basis of a final border. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says talks should restart without preconditions.
Palestinian officials said their chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, and Mr. Netanyahu's envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, have been meeting on a regular basis in hopes of finding a formula for restarting talks. They said they have not eased their demands but were open to scheduling a meeting between Mr. Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The two men have not met since a short-lived attempt to relaunch negotiations in late 2010.
The Palestinian officials said Mr. Abbas is seeking a good-will gesture from Israel, such as a "significant release" of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. They said Mr. Abbas, who is locked in a power struggle with the Islamic Hamas movement, feels he needs a concrete accomplishment from the meetings or risks facing ridicule at home. Israel is holding about 4,000 Palestinian prisoners, and Mr. Abbas is seeking the release of several hundred Palestinians, including people who were arrested before a 1993 interim peace accord, those with significant health problems, and prominent political figures.
An Israeli official confirmed there have been "ongoing contacts at different levels." He refused to elaborate but said Israel is always ready to consider good-will gestures. He cited Israeli concessions that ended a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners last month, as well as the recent return of the remains of dozens of dead Palestinian militants to their families.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a sensitive diplomatic issue.
Mr. Erekat and Mr. Molcho, the negotiators, also held a series of meetings earlier this year under Jordanian auspices, but the dialogue failed to produce any breakthroughs because of disagreements over the settlement issue.
The Palestinians view settlement construction as a sign of bad faith and say there is no point in talking as long as Israel builds homes for its citizens on occupied lands. More than 500,000 Israelis now live in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Mr. Netanyahu, leader of the hawkish Likud Party, traditionally has been a strong supporter of the settlers. But in recent months, he has shown signs of moderation, warning that Israel's continued control over millions of Palestinians is unsustainable and would jeopardize the state's future as a democracy with a Jewish majority.
Last month, Mr. Netanyahu brought the main opposition party Kadima into his government, giving him a coalition that holds 94 of parliament's 120 seats. The supermajority has reduced Mr. Netanyahu's reliance on hard-liners in the previous coalition and raised speculation that he may be planning more significant concessions to the Palestinians.
Josef Federman contributed to this article from Jerusalem.
TWT Video Picks
By Orrin G. Hatch
Procedural changes impede the chamber's traditional deliberative function
- Border agents cleared of civil rights complaints from illegal immigrant children
- U.N. condemns Israel, U.S. for not sharing Iron Dome with Hamas
- Porn-surfing feds blame boredom, lack of work for misbehavior
- Obama military strategy too weak for future security, panel reports
- Ben Carson takes major step toward presidential campaign
- CRUZ: A tale of two hospitals: One in Israel, one in Gaza
- Pentagon wants extra $19M to equip, train Ukrainian troops
- House backs faster deportations, cancels 'Dreamer' policy
- Feds raid S.C. home to seize Land Rover in EPA emission-control crackdown
- Ted Nugent slams 'lying freaks' at liberal media: I'm 'doing God's work'
Top 10 U.S. military helicopters
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors