Israeli official: Palestinians unwilling for talks

June 5, 2013
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Palestinian supporters of Hizbut-Tahrir, or Party of Liberation, shout slogans during a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Arabic words on the flags read: "There is no god but God, and Mohammed is his prophet." A senior Palestinian official says the West Bank government will try to bring Israel up on charges through the U.N. if American attempts to restart peace talks fail. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

JERUSALEM (AP) — A senior Israeli official criticized the Palestinians on Wednesday, saying they are unwilling to talk peace despite a renewed push by the United States and Israel to restart long stalled negotiations.

Instead, Palestinians are opting to pursue a strategy of international recognition alone, said Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin. He made the remarks ahead of another attempt by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to revive peace talks when he returns to the region next week.

"Israel is ready and willing to resume direct peace talks at any moment, it can be done today, tomorrow, in Jerusalem, in Ramallah, in Rome, anywhere in the world," Elkin told Israel Radio.

"The world is waiting now for Abu Mazen," he added, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by his nickname.

Talks collapsed in 2008 over Jewish settlement building in areas Palestinians demand for their future state. Palestinians are refusing to resume talks unless construction ends.

Israel says settlements, along with all the other core issues such as borders and security, should be resolved in negotiations without preconditions.

"Abu Mazen hopes to continue the unilateral track as long as he thinks the international community supports it ... he has no reason to resume negotiations," Elkin also said. "Today the world understands more and more that this is where the problem is and is adopting our formula of peace talks without preconditions."

The Palestinians claim the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip for their future state. Israel captured the three areas in the 1967 Mideast war from Jordan. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Last year, the Palestinians won recognition in the U.N. General Assembly as a nonmember state in those territories.

Although it is mostly symbolic, the upgraded status at the U.N. granted the Palestinians an upgraded diplomatic status that allows them access to key bodies of the world organization.

The U.S and Israel viewed the move as an attempt to bypass negotiations with Israel for a peace agreement.

One of Israel's main concerns is that the Palestinians will seek membership in the International Criminal Court where they could press war crimes charges against Israel.

The Palestinians chief negotiator Saeb Erekat on Tuesday told international diplomats that he blames the Israelis for the lack of progress, citing Israel's refusal to accept the 1967 lines as the basis for talks.

Erekat said that if talks fail then the Palestinians are ready to resume their campaign to join U.N. and other international bodies in order to prosecute Israel.

Kerry is to return to the Mideast next week for consultations with the two sides. It will be his fifth trip to the area since he took office early this year and promised to launch a fresh effort to restart negotiations.

Kerry has not set a formal deadline for reaching a framework for peace talks, but he has signaled that he will float a formal proposal in the coming weeks.