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Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 13:29 UK

Israel PM moots 'fresh' approach

Palestinians protest at expansion of an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank
Palestinians say with settlement work there is no hope for reviving talks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has said he is willing to resume peace talks with the Palestinians without any delay or preconditions.

Speaking to supporters in the US, he said political talks should be part of a "fresh" triple-track approach also covering economic and security issues.

He made no mention of a Palestinian state as part of the peace settlement.

The Obama administration is committed to pursuing a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict "vigorously".

Benjamin Netanyahu was addressing the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) by a satellite link-up.

"The political track means that we're prepared to resume peace negotiations without any delay and without any preconditions, the sooner the better," Mr Netanyahu told Aipac delegates.

"The security track means that we want to... strengthen the security apparatus of the Palestinians. This is something we believe in and something that I think we can advance in a joint effort.

Benjamin Netanyahu

"The economic track means that we are prepared to work together to remove as many obstacles as we can to the advancement of the Palestinian economy."

Until now, correspondents say Mr Netanyahu has remained tight-lipped about his plan for peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said Mr Netanyahu must accept a two-state solution and stop Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank if Israel wanted peace.

Separately, Mr Netanyahu's interior minister, Eli Yishai, told an audience of Jewish property owners in East Jerusalem that the Israeli government is a government of settlers and settlements.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Yishai described the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan in the eastern Israeli-occupied part of the city - known to Israelis as the City of David - as "bedrock of our existence".

Hamas message

In Damascus, the exiled political leader of the Hamas movement , the main Palestinian rival of the presidency of Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, has given a widely reported interview with the New York Times.

Khaled Meshal reiterated that Hamas was eager to reach a long-term ceasefire with Israel and for that to lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

Khaled Meshal
Khaled Meshal, based in Syria, is the top Hamas political leader

Mr Meshal insisted that Hamas would not revoke its much-quoted charter calling for the destruction of Israel, although he added the 20-year-old charter could be ignored as Hamas is "shaped by experience".

However, he said any deal must include handing East Jerusalem to the Palestinians, dismantling Jewish settlements on occupied land and honouring the right of return of the Palestinian refugees .

Correspondents point out that successive Israeli governments have rejected the return of all land occupied in the 1967 war, and the previous US administration implicitly backed their territorial claims.

Furthermore, allowing Palestinian refugees since 1948 the right to return to their homes in what is now Israel would undermine Israel's Jewish majority.

Speaking of President Barack Obama, Khaled Meshal is quoted saying: "His language is different and positive."

"I promise the American administration and the international community that we will be part of the solution," he added.

But he rejected the key US demand for immediate recognition of Israel, saying it is "just a pretext... to escape dealing with the real issue and to throw the ball into the Arab and Palestinian court".

He argued that Palestine Liberation Organisation's formal recognition of Israel in the 1990s failed to end the occupation or secure a Palestinian state.

The Palestinian body politic is divided between the Gaza Strip, blockaded by Israel and under de facto control of Hamas, and parts of the West Bank, which are administered by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority under an interim treaty with Israel.



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