JERUSALEM (JTA) — Indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians will begin this week.
The talks will be brokered by the Obama administration’s special Mideast envoy George Mitchell, who will ferry proposals between the two sides, The New York Times reported.
The Arab League agreed to back the start of the so-called proximity talks during a meeting Saturday in Cairo. The league had given its backing to four months of such talks in March, but withdrew its support shortly after the Jerusalem municipality announced the approval of a large housing construction project in eastern Jerusalem during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, condemned the Arab League’s support in a statement issued Sunday.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed last week to return to the bargaining table after reassurances from the United States, according to The New York Times. Abbas is scheduled to meet President Obama in the White House later this month, according to reports.
Meanwhile, Abbas told a West Bank newspaper in an interview published Sunday that he will demand that Israel transfer large areas of the West Bank such as the Jordan Valley, including areas currently under full and partial Israeli control, to Palestinian control, according to reports.
Abbas expressed pessimism about the possible success of the proximity talks.
"I do not want to lose hope, and prefer to remain hopeful even though I detect many hurdles and despite the sense that in Israel there are people uninterested in peace," Abbas told the al-Ayyam newspaper. "We still must try to walk this path until we find it."