Ehud Barak
Ehud BarakIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Defense Minister Ehud Barak predicted Thursday that direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinian Authority officials would resume in the near future.

During an interview with Israel Radio, Barak optimistically asserted talks would resume using a recent proposal by the Quartet for Middle East Peace.

Mideast negotiators — known as the Quartet — are urging officials in Jerusalem and Ramallah to return to the negotiating table without preconditions in order to produce comprehensive proposals on territory and security within three months.

The Quartet — the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia —has also urged both sides to avoid "provocative actions."

"The Quartet peeled away the preconditions," Barak said.

But Barak qualified his enthusiasm for renewed talks saying it was necessary PA officials adopt a reasonable attitude and treat no issue as taboo during negotiations.

"[If] Palestinians are willing to talk about all of the issues associated with a two-state solution, including that of Jerusalem, and display 'total accountability,'" Barak said. "Talks can resume."

Barak maintains creating a second state within Israeli borders, under the right conditions, is in Israel's interests and should not be perceived as a threat.

Israel has accepted the Quarter proposal without condition, but PA officials say Israel must freeze construction in 'disputed territories' before they will consent to negotiations.

A previous 10-month construction freeze by Israel aimed at meeting an identical PA precondition for talks did not bring officials in Ramallah to the table and only resulted in additional preconditions.

Israeli officials, as a result, say a second freeze is not on the agenda.