JERUSALEM (JTA) – Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians could begin as early as mid-August, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
The Israeli leader told his Cabinet Sunday that the timing has not been confirmed, but "It appears that direct talks will begin in mid-August." Netanyahu said the timing for the direct talks would "become clear in the next few days."
The announcement comes just days after the Arab League said it would back direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians when the Palestinians are ready to proceed, and also expressed support for continuing indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians had submitted a "far-reaching" peace proposal to President Obama that would end the conflict with Israel and resolve all Palestinian claims, Haaretz reported Saturday.
Also Saturday, the White House reportedly declined to comment to Politico’s Laura Rozen on reports that Obama had sent a letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warning that relations with the United States could be affected if Abbas did not agree to enter direct talks with the Israelis during the month of August, as reported in the Israeli daily Maariv and the London-based Arabic Al Hayat newspapers.
According to the newspapers, which cited Erekat as well as a leaked copy of the letter, Obama pledged that if Abbas agreed to go into direct talks, there would be an extension of a West Bank construction freeze that is set to end late in September.