Herb Keinon<br />
The Jerusalem Post
September 14, 2010 - 12:00am

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday sat down with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Sharm e-Sheikh, Egypt to tackle the most immediate dispute between the two sides: a soon-to-expire curb on new construction for Israeli settlements in the West Bank. No press conference was held prior to the beginning of the meeting.

A determination to make the peace talks work was expressed by Israeli officials accompanying Netanyahu on Tuesday to the second round of direct peace talks with Abbas.

A senior official traveling with Netanyahu on Tuesday morning reacted to Palestinian threats to bolt the talks should Israel refuse to extend the settlement building moratorium saying, "We are going there looking for something else, it's not an all or nothing proposition."

The official pointed out that if Israelis and Palestinians are not able to find a compromise solution on this matter, then how will it be possible for them to overcome more difficult issues later in the negotiations.

"Israel is looking for ways not to 'blow up' the talks and to help make them work," said the official.

According to members of Netanyahu's negotiating team, the agenda for day's talks has been set by Clinton.

Clinton spoke with reporters Monday during her flight from Washington to Egypt. She said the "time is ripe" for Mideast peace, but that without face-to-face talks Israel can't expect lasting security and the Palestinians can't create an independent state.

Clinton said the Obama administration believes Israel should extend the construction moratorium, but she also said it would take an effort by both sides to find a way around the problem.

"We recognize that an agreement that could be forged between the Israelis and the Palestinians ... that would enable the negotiations to continue is in the best interests of both sides," she said.

There has been an ongoing dispute between Israel and the Palestinians over what issues should be discussed first, with the Palestinians wanting to open talks with a discussion of borders and Israeli settlements and Israel wanting to discuss security matters, Palestinian recognition of Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people and an end to all future Palestinian claims on Israel once an agreement is reached.

Although no bilateral meeting between the prime minister and Abbas is listed in the day's schedule, the senior official stated that one is likely to take place some time during the day.


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