Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo by Emil Salman
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday evening began forming Israel's negotiating team for the direct peace negotiations set to commence next week in Washington, the Prime Minister's Office announced.

Netanyahu will assemble a small negotiating team that will be under his direct supervision, in order to allow for thorough, serious and speedy talks.

Netanyahu was expected to meet with advisers Yitzhak Molcho, Ron Dermer, and Uzi Arad, among others, in order to pick who will be part of the delegation that will travel to Washington, where direct peace talks with the Palestinian Authority are set to start on September 2.

Molcho will head the negotiating team, which is to include representatives from various government ministries.

The Foreign Ministry's representative will be the diplomat Yaakov Hadas.

The Prime Minister's Office has asked that the Defense Ministry's representatives in Washington help coordinate and plan the logistics of Netanyahu trip due to the strike of the Foreign Ministry's workers' committee.

Channel 10 reported on Thursday that senior U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross has arrived in Israel in order to find a solution of the settlement freeze issue, ahead of the opening of direct peace talks.

A 10-month freeze in settlement construction declared by Netanyahu last November is set to expire on September 26. Palestinian officials have said that renewed settlement construction would cause them to pull out of the new peace talks.

Ross' reported visit comes as two other American officials - Daniel Shapiro, a top National Security Council staffer handling Israel and neighboring countries, and David Hale, deputy to special Mideast envoy George Mitchell -  are in Israel handling preliminary negotiations in the run-up to the talks next week in Washington.