Xinhua (Editorial)
January 4, 2010 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday referred to a "change in the air" over the stalled peace process with the Palestinians, adding to speculation that the two neighbors might resume peace talks soon.

"In recent weeks, I have felt that there is a certain change in the air, and I hope that this will mature, allowing the start of the diplomatic process," local daily Ha'aretz quoted Netanyahu as telling lawmakers from his Likud party at an internal meeting.

"Israel is ready for a peace process with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), without preconditions... We are serious in our intentions to reach a peace agreement," added the premier, who has voiced support for the establishment of a Palestinian state but stressed that the future state must be demilitarized.

The Israeli leader struck the positive tone as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with PNA President Mahmoud Abbas at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for talks aimed to bring the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track, a week after the Cairo meeting between Mubarak and Netanyahu.

Following the meeting with Mubarak, Abbas reportedly said that the PNA does not object to resuming the peace process, and is not setting any preconditions, but the Jewish state must completely freeze Jewish construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in order for the Palestinian side to return to the negotiation table. Israel has so far refused the demand.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has bogged down since Israel launched a massive military operation against the Palestinian Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip at the end of 2008. During the past year, two of the core issues, namely settlements and East Jerusalem, have become major obstacles to the resumption of the stalemated process.

Recent weeks have seen Cairo stepping up mediation efforts in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with its officials expected to visit Washington in this concern ahead of U.S. special envoy George Mitchell's scheduled trip to this region later this month.

Israeli news service Ynet reported that during his upcoming visit to the Middle East, Mitchell is expected to announce the resumption of the peace negotiations.


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