Tuesday's talks were hailed as "positive" but no breakthrough emerged
Representatives of the Middle East peace Quartet including former British PM Tony Blair, meet with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in the Jordanian capital Amman on January. Israeli media and officials have reacted sceptically, a day after Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held rare face-to-face talks. © - - AFP
Tuesday's talks were hailed as
Last updated: January 4, 2012

Israeli press sceptical over Amman talks

Israelis and Palestinians were downbeat about peace prospects on Wednesday, a day after the two sides held their first face-to-face talks since September 2010 at a meeting in Amman.

"It's difficult to be optimistic because (Palestinian president Mahmud) Abbas continues to insist that Israel must commit to the 1967 lines and a settlement freeze, failing which he threatens tough measures," Israeli lawmaker Benny Begin told public radio.

"Abu Mazen must say clearly that he is ready for concessions and arrangements," said Begin, using Abbas's nom-de-guerre.

"It is very difficult to be optimistic when you know that he insists he will not recognise Israel as a Jewish state," added Begin, a minister without portfolio.

Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghuti said in a letter from his prison cell that "the peace process has failed; it's finished. It's not worth desperately trying to resuscitate a corpse."

"Consider 2012 as the year of massive peaceful popular resistance against colonialism, aggression, the Judaisation of Jerusalem, the blockade and roadblocks," Barghuti, who is serving several life terms for anti-Israeli attacks, was quoted by the Palestinian press as saying.

Mahmud al-Aloul, a leader of Abbas's Fatah movement, delivered the same message at a rally in Ramallah.

"The Israelis have dashed our hopes and those of the Jordanians by coming with empty hands, without new ideas and unready for a solution," he said.

Tuesday's talks were the first direct discussions between the two sides for more than 15 months, and were hailed as "positive," though no breakthrough emerged.

They come as the Middle East peace Quartet -- the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States -- try to kick start negotiations that ground to a halt shortly after they began in September 2010 over the issue of settlement construction.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said in a statement on Wednesday that more meetings were expected to follow Tuesday's talks during January.

But he reiterated the Palestinian position that negotiations could not resume without a freeze on settlement construction and a framework for talks based on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War.

He urged the Israeli government "to announce a settlement freeze, including in east Jerusalem, and accept the principle of a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, to give Jordan's efforts to resume negotiations the chance they deserve."

Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli minister and one of the initiators of the Oslo peace accords, told Israeli public radio that he was pessimistic.

"The discussions being embarked upon are in vain and doomed to failure," he said.

"The two parties may indeed continue to meet, but they don't have the slightest chance of reaching even a minimum agreement," he added.

"The Quartet must change direction and propose an interim agreement on the borders."

None of Israel's Hebrew-language papers even reported the talks on their front pages.

"The Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians and the Quartet all expressed such low expectations that they were able to conclude that it was a 'good and useful meeting'," the left-leaning Haaretz said in a sardonic editorial

The militant Palestinian Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, slammed Abbas's negotiators for not submitting their policies to movements outside Fatah.

"They represent only their authors and in no way the Palestinian people," it said.

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