Peres holds secret talks with Palestinians in bid to restart negotiations
Peres and Erekat go over maps of West Bank, East Jerusalem in effort to find formula to bypass dispute over establishing 1967 borders as basis for negotiations; meetings held in coordination with Netanyahu.
President Shimon Peres has been holding intensive talks with Ramallah in an effort to resume negotiations and head off a unilateral Palestinian statehood bid at the UN in September.
The meetings are being held in complete coordination with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Haaretz has learned that on Tuesday night, Peres held a long meeting with the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat. The two went over maps of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in an effort to find a formula that would bypass the dispute over establishing the June 4, 1967 border as a basis for negotiations toward a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
One option explored was the exchange of territory, and others was to compensate the Palestinians for settlement blocs annexed into Israel, on the basis of the U.S. proposal that the area of a Palestinian state be equal to the territory of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Both the president's and prime minister's bureaus refused to comment on the report.
A senior Palestinian source in Ramallah confirmed that Erekat met a number of times with Peres, including this week.
A hint at the meetings with the Palestinians could be found in statements made by Peres during a special message to the Arabic media on the eve of Ramadan, which is expected to begin early next week.
"I speak with all sides," Peres said. "I know that there are exchanges in order to prevent [the crisis] in September and that the differences are very minor."
During a meeting with Arabic-language reporters from Israel, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and neighboring countries, Peres called on both sides to return to the negotiating table.
"Such a political move will allow for a breakthrough and will transform September into a month of hope," he said. "I have noted the Palestinian preference for an agreement instead of continuing the conflict in a UN resolution."
Officials fear that heightened tensions and violence could break out come September, when the Palestinian Authority is expected to appeal to the UN for recognition as a state, a move which may push the two sides further apart.
Peres also told the reporters there is no basis to the claims that Netanyahu is planning to void the Oslo Accords.
While surveys show Netanyahu's popularity shrinking over the housing protests and doctors' strike, Peres announced his support for Netanyahu's domestic aid package.
"In talks with the prime minister, ministers and MKs, my impression is that they realize the seriousness of the situation," the president said. "I hope that the program the prime minister has presented will ease the standing of the middle class."
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