Peace talks could begin Tuesday

(JTA) — Direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority could begin next week, according to an Israeli cabinet minister.

Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom said at a press conference, according to Ynet News, that direct negotiations between Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israeli envoy Isaac Molcho and PA envoy Saeb Erekat could begin on Tuesday, pending a discussion of the talks in Israel’s Sunday cabinet meeting. The cabinet will also discuss a proposed law that would submit any final-status deal with the Palestinians to a referendum.

MERS Goodwill ad

“We hope that the talks between Israel and the Palestinians in Washington will begin next week, hopefully Tuesday,” said Shalom, according to Ynet. “We want and are interested in moving forward in the negotiations and meanwhile seeing an improvement in the Palestinian economy.”

Shalom, who spoke with Erekat, expects the PA to move forward with negotiations. Previous reports had claimed that the PA had not agreed to enter final-status talks.

In a speech at an Israel Defense Forces recruitment center, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, according to Ynet, that ”It takes two to tango, but in the Middle East it takes three” — presumably referring to American mediation of the talks.

Ben Sales is JTA’s Israel correspondent. He reports on Israeli politics, culture, society and economics, in addition to covering Palestinian and regional affairs. A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and the Columbia University Journalism School, he is the former editor-in-chief of New Voices, the national Jewish student magazine.