Israel, Palestinians prepare for new talks — with little new hope

JERUSALEM (AP) — Sidelined by the Iraq crisis, Israeli and Palestinian officials held out little hope for a breakthrJERUSALEM (AP) — Sidelined by the Iraq crisis, Israeli and Palestinian officials held out little hope for a breakthrough Sunday as they prepared for new talks in Washington on their stalled peacemaking.
Negotiators from both sides were to leave Monday for separate talks with U.S. officials in Washington. In a sign of how much relations have deteriorated, there were no plans for the Israeli and Palestinian teams actually to meet while they are in Washington.
Meanwhile, an Israel newspaper reported Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he might accept a political Palestinian entity.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sunday that the Palestinians would ask the United States to take an active role in trying to move ahead talks on unresolved issues such as prisoner releases and the opening of a Palestinian sea port and airport.
U.S. officials have said that if the peace process remains stalled, the United States will eventually take the initiative and make its own proposals for how to move forward.
Erekat said any U.S. proposal would have to include a halt to Israeli settlement building and other activities that “prejudice the results of the permanent settlement.”
David Bar-Illan, a top adviser to Netanyahu, said the Washington meetings would address security cooperation and Israel’s overdue withdrawal from more of the West Bank, as well as unresolved issues such as the airport and sea port.
Netanyahu has said Israel will not go ahead with the West Bank withdrawals until the Palestinians meet a long list of conditions, including doing more to crack down on terrorism.
The Palestinians have rejected a proposed formulation under which Israel would turn over 10 percent more of the West Bank to the Palestinians in three phases, conditional on Palestinian actions.
The Palestinians currently have full or partial control over 27 percent of the West Bank and have said they want control of more than 90 percent before a final peace settlement with Israel.