I hope my letter to Abbas relaunches peace talks, Netanyahu says (ISRAEL HAYOM) Shlomo Cesana, Daniel Siryoti, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff 05/13/12)
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Attorney Yitzhak Molcho, Israel´s special envoy for peace talks,
delivers letter from prime minister to Palestinian Authority
president in Ramallah outlining Israeli stance on stalled talks •
Move comes just days after Israel forms unity government • Abbas asks
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to intervene on behalf of
Palestinians on hunger strike.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority issued a rare joint statement on
Saturday, saying they were committed to peace after Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched an envoy to meet Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas to deliver a letter detailing his government´s stance
on stalled peace negotiations.
"I hope we can advance the dialogue between the two sides in order to
renew peace talks," Netanyahu said Sunday at the weekly cabinet
meeting, the first to include newly appointed Vice Prime Minister
Shaul Mofaz since Kadima joined the coalition.
Netanyahu´s envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, carried a letter from the
prime minister replying to one he received last month from Abbas, in
which the Palestinian leader stated his grievances over the collapse
of peace talks in 2010 and laid out his parameters for renewing
Details of Netanyahu´s letter were not released, but Israeli
officials said last week that they did not expect him to accept a key
Palestinian demand to halt all settlement construction in Judea and
Samaria and east Jerusalem before the resumption of talks.
Netanyahu´s office issued a joint statement with the Palestinians
after envoy Molcho met Abbas.
"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 statement said.
Abbas´ letter had demanded a halt to Israeli settlement construction
on land Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, which Palestinians
seek for their future state, and accused Israel of showing a lack of
commitment to the decades-old peace process, officials said. Abbas
also demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners and a resumption
of negotiations based on 1967 lines.
Netanyahu has repeatedly called on Abbas to return to talks without
any preconditions and promised that Israel was ready to make
concessions, if the Palestinians would also compromise.
Few diplomats expect any breakthrough ahead of U.S. presidential
elections in November, yet the surprise formation of a national unity
government in Israel last week has provided a slight flicker of hope.
Netanyahu stunned the political establishment on May 8 by joining
forces with the main opposition group, the centrist Kadima party, to
form one of the biggest coalitions in Israeli history.
The head of Kadima, Shaul Mofaz, has long blamed Netanyahu for the
failure of the peace talks and told reporters last week that entering
new negotiations "was an iron condition for forming the unity
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
The Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee was
scheduled to convene later Sunday to discuss the letter, Ma´an news
The exchange of letters between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders
was part of efforts by the Quartet to lure both sides back to the
negotiating table after a long impasse in peace talks. The last
meeting between the sides was four months ago, when preliminary
meetings between Israeli and Palestinian officials in the Jordanian
capital Amman broke down.
Israel has frequently called for a resumption of peace talks without
preconditions, saying the issue of settlements should be discussed
along with other core issues during negotiations.
In his letter, Netanyahu outlined Israel´s demands for security
arrangements that would need to be agreed upon as part of any final
Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said
over the weekend that during a telephone conversation between
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Netanyahu on Saturday evening,
Clinton expressed Washington´s desire for progress in peace talks.
Clinton also spoke with Abbas on Saturday night, during which the PA
president asked her to intervene on behalf of Palestinian hunger
strikers in Israeli jails, according to Israel Radio.
Palestinian officials said Egyptian mediators have been trying to
work out a solution with Israelis and Palestinians to end the mass
hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners. An Israeli official confirmed
talks were taking place but would not elaborate.
Some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails are holding a
hunger strike to demand better conditions and to end their
imprisonment. The Egyptian-brokered talks are the first substantive
negotiations meant to resolve the strike since it began weeks ago —
and in some cases months ago.
Two men, Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab, have been striking for more
than 70 days. Both are members of Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian
terrorist group that has killed hundreds of Israelis and maimed many
more 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 in
custody for months — even years — without charges. Israel has
defended administrative detentions as a necessary tool to stop
Former British Prime Minister and Quartet representative Tony Blair
said in a statement Saturday that he was "increasingly concerned
about the deteriorating health conditions" of Palestinian hunger
He said he had recently "engaged Israeli officials at all levels
urging them to take all necessary measures to prevent a tragic
outcome that could have serious implications for stability and
security conditions on the ground."
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.
On Sunday, dozens of Palestinians protested outside the U.N.
headquarters and Red Cross in Gaza, demanding that they intervene to
save the hunger-striking prisoners.
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 Prison Service says the striking Palestinians are under
constant medical supervision and are in stable condition.
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