Israel wants peace talks but ‘not at any price’

Palestinians and Israelis will be meeting under the auspices of U.S. envoy Martin Indyk for the second time since the peace talks stumbled

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his first public comments on a crisis in U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians, said on Sunday Israel was prepared to continue negotiations but “not at any price,” Reuters reported.

Netanyahu, speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, also cautioned that Israel would respond with steps of its own if the Palestinians pressed ahead with unilateral moves toward statehood.

“Any unilateral moves they take will be answered by unilateral moves at our end,” he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. envoy Martin Indyk on Sunday is expected to rejuvenate Mideast peace negotiations after Israelis and Palestinians took counter offensive measures, bringing the talks near to an imminent collapse.

Indyk will give diplomacy another chance when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a big announcement saying that Washington was going to review its role as mediator of peace talks for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final settlement status.

Kerry said on Friday there were “limits” to the time and energy Washington could devote to the process, adding that it was time for a “reality check.”

The U.S. top diplomat made the announcement when Israel rejected releasing the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners, a key condition for the peace talks to continue.

In response, the Palestinians infuriated the Israelis when they sought to gain wider international recognition by attempting to attain a full-fledged U.N. membership, and join 15 other international organizations. This made Israel consider imposing more sanctions on the Palestinians.

Despite the setback, attempts continue to prevent the collapse of talks.

Israel’s chief negotiator called on Saturday for direct talks with the Palestinians. Tzipi Livni’s remarks came on the eve of a three-way meeting with her Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat and Indyk, officials close to the talks said.

Indyk met the two separately on Friday, and he is expected to meet with them again on Sunday.

Livni told Channel 2 television that the “intensive” U.S. involvement in the talks might have got in between the actual sides in conflict, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Americans should remain involved but “as those who help negotiations and bilateral talks, rather than as their replacement,” she said.

“I think we need to advance to more meetings and direct negotiations than there were till now, I think the Americans realize this as well.”

Meanwhile, Livni insisted on Saturday that the release of prisoners was delayed only because of the Palestinian demand that the prisoners to be freed include Arab Israelis.

Livni stressed, however, that Israel would continue peace efforts, since “the current condition isn't one we can sustain.”

(With Reuters and AFP)

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