Mohammed Daraghmeh
The Statesman
May 19, 2010 - 12:00am

Palestinian leaders on Wednesday complained to a U.S. envoy about what they said were Israeli provocations, as the second round of indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks got under way.

White House emissary George Mitchell met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and is to hold talks later in the week with Israeli leaders. The negotiations were launched earlier this month, and Mitchell will be shuttling between the sides for up to four months to try to narrow their vast differences on the terms for Palestinian statehood.

Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said discussions should focus on drawing a border between Israel and a Palestinian state.

Israel has said it is willing to negotiate all issues, but suggested far-reaching decisions can only be made in direct talks.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, but with many strings attached and without Jerusalem.

Erekat said Palestinian officials handed Mitchell a list of what they consider Israeli provocations, such as recent statements by Cabinet ministers that Israel will keep building Jewish settlements and demolish unauthorized Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem, their hoped-for capital.

There have been indications, though, that Netanyahu has put the brakes on both.

In other developments Wednesday, the Islamic militant Hamas said Israel is to release a one of its legislators on Thursday, after nearly four years in custody. Mohammed Abu Teir had been among 40 West Bank lawmakers who were arrested by Israel after Hamas' victory in Palestinian parliament elections in 2006.

The arrests effectively paralyzed the 132-member Palestinian parliament, in which Hamas had controlled 74 seats. Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza in 2007 further froze legislative activity.

Abu Teir's release would bring to 30 the number of legislators who have since left prison — technically enough to restore Hamas' majority in parliament.

Its main political rival, Abbas, however, would have to reconvene parliament first — an unlikely move since it would give the militant group significant power at a time of a deepening political rift between the two camps.


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