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PA Official: Talks Likely as Netanyahu Folds on Key Issues

Israel and the PA may start negotiations again, after Israeli PM agrees to major concessions, including partial "building-freeze"
By David Lev
First Publish: 7/18/2013, 12:15 PM

Netanyahu and Kerry meet in Jerusalem
Netanyahu and Kerry meet in Jerusalem
Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash 90

A meeting between Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday in Amman has apparently prompted the PA to agree to enter into talks with Israel, a top PA official said. A report in a PA newspaper said that “the gaps between the two sides have narrowed considerably,” after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to accept several preconditions demanded by the PA.

According to the official, Netanyahu agreed to at least a partial building freeze in Judea and Samaria, and has agreed to announce that freeze publicly, as part of the declaration that Kerry will make, probably on Friday, that Israel-PA talks are back on. The freeze will not apply to Jerusalem and the “settlement blocs,” but will apply to dozens of communities outside these areas, including most of Binyamin.

In addition, the official said, Netanyahu has agreed to accept the 1948 armistice lines as the legitimate beginning point for negotiations. The implications of that acceptance entails an implicit Israeli agreement to surrender the vast majority of land liberated in the 1967 Six Day War, except for the lands needed for security purposes. In the past, the PA has demanded that Israel also give up on the idea of settlement blocs, and have demanded that cities such as Ariel be evacuated and surrendered as part of any final arrangement with Israel.

PA chief Abbas is set to meet with top Fatah terror group officials Thursday afternoon in order to present Kerry's ideas and get their approval for a resumption of talks with Israel.

According to the London-based Arabic language Al-Hayat newspaper, Kerry is expected to announce resumption of the talks on Friday, before he leaves Amman. In a statement, the State Department said that “Secretary Kerry will remain in Amman on Thursday night to determine if there is additional work that requires his presence before he returns to the United States.”

In a statement Thursday, President Shimon Peres asked the European Union to hold off on its policy announcement that it would halt all economic activity with Israeli and Jewish groups and organizations in the lands liberated in the 1967 Six Day War, including most of Jerusalem. “From the information we have gathered, it appears that Secretary of State Kerry is on the verge of a breakthrough,” Peres wrote in a letter to EU officials. “The sanctions the EU wishes to impose will interfere with the negotiations and cause damage. I call on you to give peace a chance” before imposing the sanctions, he said.