Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he’s willing to freeze government construction in West Bank settlements as well as all construction on government land there. In return, he needs an agreement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to resume direct peace talks.
According to a senior Israeli official, Abbas has not yet responded, but he has been threatening to resign if there is no diplomatic progress in the next three months.
The Prime Minister’s Office said, however, that Netanyahu did not offer an additional freeze; Israel’s position had not changed: an immediate start to direct talks with the Palestinian Authority with no preconditions.
The senior Israeli official said a new proposal was relayed to Abbas on Wednesday by Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, who arrived on a surprise visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. She was sent by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who has launched a mediation effort in an attempt to break the deadlock in the peace process.
The mediation took shape on October 11, when Abbas arrived in Colombia to try to convince the president of Colombia, currently a member of the UN Security Council, to support the PA’s bid for full UN membership, a senior Israeli official said.
Before Abbas’ visit, Santos contacted U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, proposing that he mediate due to the close Colombian-Israeli ties and his good relations with Abbas. Clinton gave the effort her blessing.
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