Israel envoy meets with Palestinian president (AP) Associated Press) By IAN DEITCH JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 05/12/12 5:27 pm ET)
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JERUSALEM – An Israeli envoy met with Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas on Saturday and delivered a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanayahu detailing his government´s stance on stalled peace
Yitzhak Molcho held talks with Abbas in the West Bank city of
Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinians´ government. The modest
exchange was the highest-level communication between the Palestinians
and Israelis in months.
Netanyahu´s office later issued a joint statement that said
that "Israel and the Palestinian Authority are committed to achieving
peace and the sides hope that the exchange of letters between
President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu will further this goal."
Israeli media reported that Israel had called for renewed peace talks
without preconditions. Palestinians are demanding that Israel cease
settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas
they claim as part of their future state, before talks can begin.
Israel has frequently called for peace talks to resume. Israel says
settlements should be resolved along with other core issues through
The communication by letter demonstrates how thoroughly negotiations
to create an independent Palestinian state have fallen apart. The
last effort was four months ago, but preliminary meetings between
Israeli and Palestinian officials in the Jordanian capital Amman
Also, Palestinian officials said Egyptian mediators are trying to
work out a solution with Israelis and Palestinians to end a mass
hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. An Israeli
official confirmed talks were taking place but would not elaborate.
The officials requested anonymity, because of the matter´s
sensitivity. Egyptian officials weren´t immediately available for
Some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails are on hunger
strike to demand better conditions and to put an end to detention
without trial. The Egyptian-brokered talks mark the first time that
substantive negotiations have been reported to be under way to defuse
the protest since it began weeks, and in some cases months, ago.
Two men, Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab, have been on strike for more
than 70 days. Both are members of Islamic Jihad, a violent
Palestinian militant group that has killed hundreds and maimed many
more in suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks.
It is not clear whether Halhaleh and Diab were involved in any
militant activity because they are being held under "administrative
detention," a policy that can keep some Palestinian prisoners in
custody for months — even years — without charges. Israel has
defended administrative detentions as a necessary tool to stop
According to prison officials, at least 1,600 of the 4,600
Palestinians held by Israel are refusing food. Palestinians say about
2,500 prisoners are taking part in the hunger strike.
Israel is hesitant to clinch a deal with the prisoners, fearing it
will encourage more strikes. Many of the Palestinians striking have
been convicted of involvement in deadly attacks against civilians.
Israel´s prisons service says the striking Palestinians are under
constant medical supervision and are in stable condition. (© 2012 The
Associated Press 05/12/12)
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