White House awaiting Netanyahu’s response on peace talks

WASHINGTON (JTA) – The Obama administration is waiting for the Netanyahu government’s response to its efforts to restart peace talks.

Steve Simon, the top National Security Council official dealing with Israel and the Palestinians, told Jewish leaders in a conference call on Friday that the Palestinians had been "forthcoming" on the terms President Obama laid out in a May 19 Middle East policy speech, although the White House was not yet totally "comfortable" with the Palestinian side.

Now, he said, the White House was "waiting to see" what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position would be.

Simon said the sides had about a month to decide, otherwise the Palestinians were likely to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations.

Simon said the United States would block such a move, but Obama administration officials have said that even with a U.S. veto, U.N. recognition of "Palestine" would damage U.S. and Israeli interests.

Netanyahu has so far resisted accepting Obama’s proposition that negotiations should be based on 1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps.

Simon reiterated those elements of the Obama parameters that favored Israel: secure borders for Israel, and no removal of Israeli security forces from the West Bank until the Palestinians have proven their ability to prevent terrorist attacks; no negotiations with a partner that includes Hamas unless it renounces terrorism and recognizes Israel; an end to all claims; recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

He also said the United States would stop its support for the Palestinian Authority should its government include an unreformed Hamas.

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