Newspaper: Netanyahu agrees to new concessions in peace process
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to release over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, to remove several roadblocks in the West Bank, and to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip, as a series of gestures towards Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Haaretz reported.
During his meeting with United States special Mideast envoy George Mitchell on Friday Netanyahu also agreed to enable the Palestinian Authority to act in Area C in the West Bank, however he refused the U.S. demand to freeze construction in East Jerusalem as well as the request to return all territories classified as Area C in the West Bank to PA control.
The London-based Arabic Language news agency Al-Hayat reported that despite the new gestures Abbas rejected Netanyahu's recent offer to establish a Palestinian state within temporary borders on over 60 percent of West Bank territories, as he believed that the offer was an attempt to drag him into sterile negotiations in order to perpetuate the PA as a temporary borders.
Israeli and American officials reportedly conveyed the offer to Abbas, while President Shimon Peres and Defense minister Ehud Barak both attempted to convince the United States that this was the only way to prevent a continuous Middle East conflict, Al-Hayat reported.
PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said that establishing a Palestinian state with temporary borders was out of the question and demanded a total construction freeze in East Jerusalem, Al-Hayat reported.
Besides, Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak expressed the hope for resuming peace talks with the Palestinians in the next few weeks under the U.S. mediation. Simultaneously Mitchell's closed talks with the Palestinian and Israeli leadership were held in Ramallah and Jerusalem.
Erekat said that the Mitchell's proposals will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the Committee of the Arab League, to be held May 1 in Cairo, and should be supported by the Arab world.
In early March, Mitchell almost persuaded the conflict sides to resume the peace process, interrupted more than a year ago. However, Palestinians withdrew consent for the indirect dialogue under the U.S. mediation, after the Israeli authorities announced the project of construction 1,600 buildings for Jewish families in the disputed, eastern part of Jerusalem, RIA Novosti reported.
It is expected that Mitchell will hold another round of meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Sunday, before leaving the region.