After two years of stalled negotiations, Israeli and Palestinian officials issued a joint statement declaring their commitment to peace. The statement comes after Israel formed a broad national unity government.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority issued a rare joint statement professing their commitment to peace, after an exchange of letters between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Netanyahu had an envoy deliver a letter to Abbas on Saturday, responding to one that the Palestinian leader had sent in April stating his grievances against the Israeli government and laying out parameters for the resumption of talks.
Although the contents of Netanyahu's letter were not disclosed, Israel has previously said it was prepared to restart peace talks, but only if there were no preconditions. Palestinians have demanded that Israel accept a two-state solution within the borders prior to the 1967 Mideast war and a halt to settlement building.
"Israel and the Palestinian Authority are committed to achieving peace and the sides hope that the exchange of letters between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu will further this goal," Netanyahu's office and the Palestinians said in a joint statement after Israeli envoy Isaac Molcho met with Abbas in Ramallah.
Moribund peace process
The peace process has been at a standstill since 2010, when Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected Palestinian demands for an expansion of the temporary freeze on settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In September 2011, the Palestinians launched their own unilateral bid to have their state recognized through admission to the United Nations. The bid lost steam after it became clear that the United States, which argued that peace could only come through bilateral negotiations, would veto the proposal at the UN Security Council.
Amid differences with right-wing nationalists and religious parties within his own coalition, Netanyahu's Likud party formed a government of national unity with the centrist Kadima party on May 8. The new, more moderate coalition has raised some hope that there could be an opening to jumpstart the moribund peace process. The head of Kadima, Shaul Mofaz, had told reporters that entering new negotiations "was an iron condition for forming a unity government."
In addition, around 1,600 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails are currently on hunger strike to end the practice of indefinite detention without trial and to improve their conditions. Around 4,600 Palestinians are currently held by Israel.
slk/mr (AP, AFP, Reuters)