(AP) Israel shows no signs of yielding to Palestinians
By DEB RIECHMANN
RAMALLAH, West Bank
Israel’s prime minister is showing no signs of bending as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presses forward with efforts to restart Mideast peace talks.
Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday that he is ready to begin talks with the Palestinians immediately, but he made no mention of yielding to Palestinian demands to halt settlement construction or release Palestinian prisoners.
Netanyahu says he will not compromise on Israel’s security and if a deal is reached, he says he will seek approval in a national referendum. A referendum is not required, and critics have said it would add an additional obstacle to implanting a deal that relinquishes territory to the Palestinians.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Sunday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the third time in three days, trying to press the restart button on talks between Israel and the Palestinians to end their long-running conflict.
Kerry is in his fourth day of Mideast shuttle diplomacy, holding meetings with both sides in hopes of getting them back to the negotiating table.
There is deep skepticism that Kerry can get the two sides to agree on a two-state solution. It’s something that’s eluded presidents and diplomats for years. But the flurry of meetings has heightened expectations the two sides can be persuaded to restart talks, which broke down in 2008.
The meeting at the Palestinian presidential compound in Ramallah began shortly after 11 a.m. with small talk about a 23-year-old male wedding singer from a Gaza refugee camp who recently won the Arab world’s top TV contest. Mohammed Assaf was crowned “Arab Idol” last week and Abbas portrayed the singer’s victory as an achievement for all Palestinians.
Street celebrations and fireworks erupted across the West Bank and Gaza after he was named the winner.
A reporter asked Kerry how the talks were progressing, but the secretary only waved, ending the photo-op.