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MIDEAST > Palestine state worded in Netanyahu’s letter

JERUSALEM / RAMALLAH

Israeli PM Netanyahu pledges to establish a Palestinian state in line with the two-state solution for the first time in an official state document. He also tells Palestinian President Abbas that he wants to restart talks soon

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A left-winger wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh stands before Israeli protesters holding their national flags in front of Tel Aviv university to protest against ‘Nakba Day.’ AFP photo

A left-winger wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh stands before Israeli protesters holding their national flags in front of Tel Aviv university to protest against ‘Nakba Day.’ AFP photo

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a pledge “to establish a demilitarized Palestinian state in keeping with the principle of a two-state solution” for the first time in a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to daily Haaretz.

The letter, which was written in reply to an earlier missive from Abbas about the stalled peace process, was delivered on May 12, but so far no details of its contents have been made public. Quoting a source that had seen the letter, Haaretz said Netanyahu had told Abbas that his surprise move to form a broad coalition with the center-right Kadima opposition, which was announced last week, would help advance peace talks.

Abbas had sent a letter to Netanyahu on April 17 asking Israel to outline its position on four key issues: the principle of a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders, halting settlement activity, releasing all Palestinian prisoners, and revoking all decisions that have undermined bilateral agreements since 2000.

“The national unity government has created a new opportunity to move the peace process ahead,” Netanyahu wrote. Haaretz said the letter also contained a pledge “to establish a demilitarized Palestinian state in keeping with the principle of a two-state solution.” Netanyahu has backed that position in public before, but Haaretz said this is the first time it had been outlined in an “official state document.”

Hunger strikers weigh deal with Israel

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), however, said on May 13 that Netanyahu’s response “did not contain clear answers to the central issues hampering the resumption of negotiations.”

“The content of [Netanyahu’s] letter did not represent grounds for returning to negotiations,” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, which reviewed the document, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike in Israeli jails are weighing a package of measures that would ease their conditions in exchange for ending their protest, a source told Agence France-Presse yesterday. Some 1,550 Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike, including two detainees who yesterday entered their 76th day without food.

They are calling on Israel to ease restrictions on family visits and prisoner education, and for an end to both solitary confinement and the use of administrative detention, a procedure under which suspects can be held indefinitely without being charged with a crime.

May/15/2012

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