Netanyahu and Abbas requesting a return to...

Netanyahu and Abbas requesting a return to talks

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz 
via Haaretz (click here for the original article) 
Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas are calling again to return to the negotiating table. But will signs of willingness be enough for direct talks to actually start?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to send a letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in which he will call on him to return to the negotiating table promptly and without preconditions.
A senior Israeli official said the letter would be a response to a similar communiqué Abbas plans to relay to Netanyahu in the upcoming days.
The Israeli message will stress, among other diplomatic statements, the Israeli willingness to resume the talks that took place in the Jordanian capital Amman, under the aegis of the Jordanian king and the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers.
In his letter Netanyahu will state that Israel is willing to discuss all core issues: borders, security arrangements, refugees, water, settlements, and the fate of Jerusalem.
Netanyahu will write Abbas that he isn’t laying down any preconditions to the negotiations and expects that the Palestinians would do the same. Although Netanyahu will stress that any peace agreement between the sides will have to include the Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and their assent to appropriate security arrangements.
“Netanyahu’s letter will be a response to Abbas’s letter,” the senior official said. “We will see what he writes and finalize our response. At any rate, the message will be that Israel is interested and willing to advance the negotiations with the Palestinians. The goal is to jump start the talks and not merely exchange correspondence for the protocol.”
During a press conference that Netanyahu held on Tuesday to mark the three year anniversary of his government, he stressed that the Palestinians are those who are refusing to return to the negotiating table.
“We want to reach a settlement with the Palestinians because, I don’t want a two-nation state,” Netanyahu stressed. “I also want to insure the survival of a Jewish state. Not only separation but also security…If the Palestinians don’t negotiate now, they will in later. I am committed to maintaining the Jewish character of the country.”
On Tuesday, Haaretz reported that last week a secret meeting between Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Netanyahu's envoy Yitzhak Molho in Jerusalem. The two have been in regular telephone contact, but this has been their first meeting since the Amman talks collapsed in January 26.
In the meeting, Erekat described the letter Abbas plans to send Netanyahu in the next few days. The message, whose first drafts included an ultimatum and serious threats to dismantle the Palestinian Authority, had gone through gradual stages of dwindling and softening due to American pressure, among other reasons.
The draft Erekat presented Molho, during last week’s meeting, didn’t include a threat to dismantle the Palestinian Authority; instead it contained much weaker rhetoric. In addition, Erekat asked Molho to coordinate a meeting between Netanyahu and a senior delegation from the Palestinian Authority that will deliver the Palestinian message.