Israel said it will reject any preconditions set forth by the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators on resuming direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among a forum of seven senior Cabinet officials who made the decision Sunday evening.
The Quartet — the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — was expected to make an announcement regarding the resumption of direct talks on Monday or Tuesday, according to reports. Its statement, according to Israeli media reports, may call on Israel to renew a 10-month West Bank settlement freeze that is set to expire Sept. 26.
“Israel is ready to start direct negotiations immediately, but without any preconditions,” an Israeli official told the French news agency AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The Palestinians, who have lost valuable time by refusing to revive these direct contacts, will present all the topics they want to discuss at the negotiating table.”
U.S. sources said Sunday that the Quartet would call for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders within a year or two. The United States as an intermediary for months of “proximity talks” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has tried to convince the Palestinians to enter face-to-face talks.
A senior Israeli government source said Sunday that “the Quartet announcement could serve as camouflage for Palestinian preconditions, and that is unacceptable.” He added that the U.S. administration will issue another announcement later in the week defining the terms of the negotiations and serving as a compromise between the Israeli and the Palestinian viewpoints.
Also Sunday, several reports said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would announce the start of direct peace talks in only “a matter of days.”
A senior official in the Obama administration told Haaretz that a number of minor details still need to be clarified with Abbas and Netanyahu that will open the way for direct talks.