Envoy delivers PM’s letter on peace talks to Abbas in Ramallah (TIMES OF ISRAEL) By RAPHAEL AHREN and AP 05/12/12)
TIMES OF ISRAEL
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Yitzhak Molcho hands PA leader written response to Palestinian
negotiating position; progress reported in talks to end hunger strike
sraeli prime ministerial envoy Yitzhak Molcho met with Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas in Saturday evening in Ramallah and handed
him a letter from Benjamin Netanyahu.
After the meeting, the two sides released a joint statement saying
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.”
The prime minister’s letter was a response to a note from Abbas that
Palestinian negotiators gave to Netanyahu last month.
No details of the Netanyahu letter were released, but it was widely
believed that the prime minister reiterated his commitment to holding
peace talks with no pre-conditions. It was thought unlikely that he
offered Abbas significant new terms for talks.
The modest exchange is the highest-level communication between the
two sides in months.
Abbas said last Tuesday that he would be ready to resume peace
negotiations with Israel if Netanyahu proposed any positive
steps. ”If there is anything promising or positive of course we will
engage,” he said.
In his letter to Netanyahu April 17, delivered by senior Palestinian
negotiator Saeb Erekat, Abbas demanded that Israel accept the
establishment of a Palestinian state “on the 1967 borders” with
possible minor adjustments, halt all building over the Green Line,
and release all prisoners. If Israel failed to do this, Abbas vowed,
the Palestinians would “seek the full and complete implementation of
international law” to deal with Israel’s presence “as occupying power
in all of the occupied Palestinian territory.” The situation as it
stands, he stated, “cannot continue.”
Meanwhile on Saturday, officials said Israelis and Palestinians were
negotiating through Egyptian mediators to end a mass Palestinian
hunger strike. Earlier on Saturday, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail
Haniyeh said talks on the issue were moving ahead.
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.
Palestinian officials say Egyptian mediators are trying to hash out
an agreement between the strikers and Israel. An Israeli official
confirmed talks were taking place but would not elaborate.
All requested anonymity, because of the matter’s sensitivity.
Egyptian officials weren’t immediately available for comment.
Two men, Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab, have been on strike for more
than 70 days. Both are members of Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian
militant group that has killed hundreds in suicide bombings,
shootings and other attacks.
It is not clear whether Halhaleh and Diab were involved in any
terrorist activity because they are being held under “administrative
detention,” a policy that can keep some Palestinian prisoners for
months — even years — without charges. Israel has defended
administrative detentions as a necessary tool to stop militant
According to prison officials, at least 1,600 of the 4,600
Palestinians held by Israel are refusing food. Palestinians say about
2,500 strikers are striking.
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.
Israel’s prisons service says the striking Palestinians are under
constant medical supervision and are in stable condition.(© 2012 THE
TIMES OF ISRAEL 05/12/12)
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