As the Palestinians seek statehood recognition at the United Nations, Israel has given its official response to an international effort to revive the Middle East peace process.
Israel has welcomed a proposal by international mediators to resume peace talks with the Palestinians "immediately and without preconditions."
The Quartet of Middle East mediators, the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia, unveiled the proposal more than a week ago after the Palestinians submitted a request for statehood recognition at the U.N.
The U.S. opposes the statehood bid, saying Palestinian independence should be achieved through negotiations with Israel. The Quartet called for a resumption of peace talks in a month, and a framework peace agreement on Palestinian statehood by the end of 2012.
Israeli spokesman Mark Regev urged the Palestinians to abandon the effort for statehood at the U.N. and return to the negotiating table.
"Israel is willing and has been willing for the immediate resumption of talks. We hope the Palestinian side will pick up the ball and we will indeed see a restarting of the Middle East peace process."
The Quartet proposal says peace talks should resume without preconditions. But the Palestinians say a Quartet reference to the "Roadmap" peace plan of 2003 backs their key condition for resuming negotiations: a freeze on all Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should keep his commitments under the Roadmap.
"He has an obligation called settlements. It's not a precondition! It's not a precondition; it's an obligation on him to stop settlement activities."
Israel threw a wrench into peace efforts last week, when it announced plans to build 1,100 new housing units in East Jerusalem, on land Israel annexed after the 1967 war. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state. The U.S. and EU criticized the Israeli move. But Israel says all of Jerusalem is its capital, not a settlement, and it can build anywhere in the city.
- Originally published by Voice of America
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