On Saturday, the PLO Executive Committee authorized the Palestinian Authority to enter into indirect “proximity talks” with Israel. A PA spokesman told reporters Saturday that “as far as we are concerned, the start of the indirect negotiations can be announced today.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak lauded the announcement, saying "I hope and believe that with a responsible approach and determination on both sides to take brave decisions, we will be able to achieve direct negotiations and reach a breakthrough towards peace." Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also welcomed the PA to the talks, adding that "Israel's position was and remains that the talks should be conducted without preconditions, and that they should quickly lead to direct negotiations.”
Hamas, on the other hand, panned the talks, saying that the “absurd” talks would “give the Israeli occupation an umbrella to commit more crimes against the Palestinians. Hamas calls on the PLO to stop selling illusions to the Palestinian people and announce the failure of their gambling on absurd talks," the Gaza terror group said in a statement.
Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas conferred with U.S. envoy George Mitchell on Friday night to discuss the content of the talks. In a version of “shuttle diplomacy,” Mitchell will travel between Jerusalem and Ramallah, conducting talks with negotiating teams on each side.
Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudainah said last week that the PA expects all issues – including the fate of Jerusalem and the PA's demand that descendants of Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 be permitted to return to their original homes in pre-1967 Israel – to be on the table. "Absolutely no issue will be excluded and Jerusalem will be the top priority," Rudainah said.