Benjamin Netanyahu - Emil Salman - 16.1.2012
Benjamin Netanyahu during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 29, 2012. Photo by Emil Salman
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Peace prospects with the Palestinians are looking poor, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday after exploratory talks aimed at relaunching negotiations ended in deadlock.

"As things stand now, according to what happened over the past few days - when the Palestinians refused even to discuss Israel's security needs with us - the signs are not particularly good," he told his cabinet in public remarks.

Netanyahu's comments came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in Ramallah on Saturday that Israel was to blame for the failure of the recent round of talks to relaunch direct talks.

Abbas claimed that during talks mediated by Jordan in recent weeks, Israel had presented an unclear position on security matters and on the question of borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state. Palestinian sources said Israel's border proposal would have prevented the establishment a Palestinian state.

Palestinian officials said last week an Israeli negotiator's verbal presentation on Wednesday of ideas for borders and security arrangements of a future Palestinian state was a non-starter, envisaging a fenced-off territory of cantons that would preserve most Jewish settlements.

Netanyahu said he still hoped the Palestinians would "come to their senses and continue the talks so that we can move on to real negotiations."

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held five rounds of exploratory talks in Jordan, part of a push by international mediators to revive negotiations suspended in 2010 in a dispute over Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

A Palestinian source said no more meetings were scheduled. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he wants to consult Arab League states on the next move.

An Israeli official said Israel's approach to territorial compromise in the West Bank, captured in the 1967 Middle East war, includes the principle that "most Israelis will be under Israeli sovereignty and obviously most Palestinians will be under Palestinian sovereignty."

The official said Netanyahu had acknowledged, in a speech to the U.S. Congress last May, that not all Jewish settlements "will be on our side of the border" with a future Palestinian state.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. They say Israeli settlements could deny them a viable and contiguous country.

Last week, a bitter confrontation broke out between the head of the Israeli negotiating team Isaac Molho and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat during their meeting In Jordan on Saturday, after Erekat refused to let a senior Israeli officer present the Israeli position on security arrangements.

An Israeli official familiar with the content of the talks said that, by all accounts, Erekat and Molcho exchanged harsh words in front of their stunned Jordanian hosts, with the argument reaching its peak when Prime Minister Netanyahu's envoy asked to present Israel’s position on security arrangements.