Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reiterate his proposal to hold direct talks with Palestinian Authority (PA) president, Mahmud Abbas, when he meets Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Jerusalem next week, his office said on Wednesday. The Israeli prime minister is scheduled to meet with the Palestinian PM and two other senior officials from Ramallah in Jerusalem on 17 April. At the meeting, Netanyahu will propose “raising the level of talks” and holding face-to-face negotiations with Abbas. The message will also be included in a letter to the Palestinian president. The Palestinians are expected to bring a letter from Abbas setting out Palestinian demands, blaming Israel for undermining the PA, and threatening to resume efforts to gain recognition at the UN.
Quartet diplomats met in Washington on Wednesday in their latest attempt to find a way out of the deadlock. After the meeting, a statement was issued urging both sides to “strengthen and improve the climate for a resumption of direct negotiations”.
The statement was welcomed by Israel, but received with scepticism by Palestinian officials. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the Quartet needed to address the issue of settlements before negotiations can recommence.
The last time Abbas and Netanyahu met was at the end of September 2010. Since then, there have been no top level meetings, although negotiators held five exploratory meetings in Amman in January 2012, aimed at seeking a way back to the negotiating table. They ended inconclusively after the Palestinians demanded that Israel freeze settlement construction and accept 1967 lines as a condition for continuing the talks.