Israel, Palestinians To Resume Direct Talks

Direct talks between Israel and Palestinians are set to restart following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s positive response to a call made by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday.

Clinton called for a summit between the leaders of the two warring factions in a bid to bring them back to the negotiating table after a 20-month standoff and end the long-running dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev told AFP that it has been the Israeli prime minister’s desire to hold direct talks, adding that Israelis “welcome the opportunity to start now.” However, opposition members in the Israeli parliament warned that the talks would fizzle out unless Netanyahu and his allies become more open-minded to the legitimate wishes of Palestinians.

“Without (Israel) continuing a total freeze on settlement and a genuine readiness to withdraw to the international borders and an end to offering the Palestinians a caricature of a state it will be a waste of everybody’s time,” Meretz parliament leader Haim Oron said in a radio interview.

Officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas also welcomed Clinton’s call but the Islamist Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, dismissed the direct talks as merely aimed “to fool the Palestinian people.”