Jordan to host Israeli, Palestinian Peace Negotiators

Jerusalem, Jan. 1 – The Kingdom of Jordan will broker a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators this week in an attempt to restart the moribund peace talks between the two sides, Israel’s leading Yediot Aharonoth newspaper reported Sunday.

The expected meeting in Amman between Israeli delegate Yitzhak Molcho and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is also under the auspices of the international Quartet for peace in the Middle East, comprised of the United States, European Union, Russia and United Nations, Yediot reported on its website.

The Quartet asked the Israelis and Palestinians to submit proposals on borders and security by January 26 as a prelude to restarting peace talks that have been paralyzed since 2010.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Israel Radio that he accepted the Jordanian suggestion, because he doesn't consider the meeting to be the resumption of direct peace talks. Abbas has said previously that Palestinians will only resume peace negotiations if Israel re-imposes a construction freeze, agrees to the 1967 borders and releases some Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is willing to resume peace negotiations at any time without preconditions.

Israel halted construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 2010, but Palestinians refused to resume peace negotiations until just before the freeze ended and walked out shortly afterwards. Israel declined to renew the freeze, saying negotiations should continue.

The Jordanian proposal came as Amman welcomed families of the leaders of the Hamas terrorist organization who were fleeing the ongoing violence in Syria. Jordanian officials said the kingdom was committed to its peace treaty with Israel and would not allow Hamas to open offices there.

In 2007 the Palestinian Authority split into the West Bank under Abbas’ Fatah Party, and the Gaza Strip under the Iran-backed Hamas. The Hamas leadership remained in Damascus, where they have protection from embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Abbas gave assurances that the recent talks between Fatah and Hamas for a proposed Palestinian government of national unity would respect existing commitments. However, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh repeated over the weekend during an official visit to Sudan that Hamas would “never” recognize Israel.

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