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Palestinians may ease demands on Israel

Associated Press / June 24, 2011

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RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinians are ready to drop their demand for a freeze on Israeli settlement construction to get peace talks back on track, a top official told the Associated Press yesterday.

The softened position reflects the Palestinians’ growing realization that their alternative strategies to talks — reconciling with the Hamas militant group and seeking unilateral recognition at the United Nations — are both in trouble.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a sensitive diplomatic proposal, said the Palestinians will drop the demand for a full construction freeze and resume peace talks if Israel accepts President Obama’s proposal to base negotiations on a broad Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war.

The issue is at the heart of the current impasse. The latest round of talks was launched in September at the White House after a two-year breakdown, only to collapse three weeks later with the expiration of an Israeli slowdown on settlement construction.

The Palestinians have been demanding a full freeze on all construction — which would go further than that slowdown — before resuming negotiations. Any move to drop or significantly ease that demand could put greater pressure on Israel to respond positively — perhaps by accepting Obama’s formula, which it has not done.

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