The United States and Egypt, along with France, are planning a joint move to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks on the basis of the June 4, 1967, borders, territorial exchanges and a complete freeze of construction beyond the Green Line, including East Jerusalem. The freeze would not be announced publicly.
Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said in an extensive interview with the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat that "once they realized their earlier approach had failed, the Americans see themselves forced to change direction."
He added that Egypt had recently discussed with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas the new strategies for negotiations raised in talks between Cairo, Washington and Paris. An Egyptian source told Haaretz that Egypt's intelligence minister, Omar Suleiman, is scheduled to visit Israel and then Washington in the coming days.
At a press conference in Beirut last week, Abbas said he expects U.S. envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to arrive in Jerusalem and Ramallah during the first week of January. He said Mitchell will be pushing an initiative to renew negotiations, in coordination with the Arab League and on the basis of a complete freeze of settlement construction for five months - without a public statement to that effect.
Such an initiative would allow Abbas to hold general elections in the territories in June 2010. The Egyptian foreign minister said the new program would set up the basic principles of the negotiations, the intended results and a clear timetable. He added that an agreement would have to include the following points: Establishing a Palestinian state on all territories occupied in 1967, with a possibility for small-scale territorial exchanges; establishing East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital; a just arrangement for all refugee issues; agreed security arrangements; normalization between the Arab world and Israel; and no construction in settlements until the negotiations are complete.
Aboul Gheit also said the United States will soon present its position on this plan, and that there is a possibility that the plan would be made part of a United Nations Security Council resolution, a Quartet decision or speeches aimed at the negotiating sides.
Meanwhile, a senior diplomatic source told Haaretz on Tuesday that there were gaps between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas on the very definition of the negotiating process. Netanyahu demands the process be defined as "starting" negotiations, aiming to disregard understandings reached in talks between the Palestinians and his predecessor, Ehud Olmert. Abbas insists the process must take those understandings into consideration, and demands it be defined as a "resumption" of negotiations. The Americans propose a compromise in the form of "re-launching" the negotiations, said the source.
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