JERUSALEM, April 16 (Xinhua) -- Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat are scheduled to meet later on Wednesday in their latest attempt to salvage the peace process and extend the talks, an Israeli official source told Xinhua, despite far-right Israeli pressure to end the negotiations.
The source confirmed a message issued by the U.S. State Department on Tuesday, which said that both parties are working on trying to extend the negotiations beyond the scheduled deadline of April 29.
The meeting follows another rendezvous between the parties on Sunday and several other meetings held last week, but it may be overshadowed by an attack allegedly perpetrated by Palestinians militants, in which an Israeli police officer was killed and his wife and son injured as they were celebrating the evening of the Passover holiday with their family.
The family was traveling on the 35 highway near Hebron in the West Bank when an assailant started firing at the cars passing by. Israeli security forces are hunting for the perpetrator and have yet to capture him.
Several hawkish far-right ministers urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt all talks with the Palestinians over the militant attack. Netanyahu himself issued a statement on Tuesday that the attack is the result of the Palestinian Authority's incitement against Israel.
The current round of peace talks has been faltering. Talks worsened recently after Israel reneged on its promise to release the last batch of Palestinian prisoners on March 29 and continues to expand its east Jerusalem and West Bank settlements. The Palestinian request to join 15 international conventions has also drawn the ire of Israeli negotiators.
Israel delayed the prisoners release over the far-right's objection to include 14 Arab citizens of Israel who were involved in militant attacks against Israelis and canceled it altogether following unilateral moves made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, demanding the Palestinians rescind their decisions and assure Israel the talks will continue beyond the original deadline.
The Jewish state's main worry is that the Palestinian Authority will join the International Criminal Court in the Hague, where it may file complaints against Israel's occupation of the West Bank territories, which Israel took over amid the 1967 Mideast War.
In response to the Palestinian request to join the international bodies, Netanyahu ordered government ministries last week to stop cooperating with the Palestinian Authority on civilian and economic matters, whereas the negotiations and the security coordination are continuing, and planned a package of economic sanctions against the Palestinians.
Israeli media last week provided mixed reports regarding possible progress in the talks. According to the Ha'aretz daily, the negotiators are brewing up a deal to continue the talks, including the release of Palestinian prisoners (albeit with some significant changes,) a halt by the Palestinians in their attempts to join more international institutions and the U.S. releasing U.S. -American spy Jonathan Pollard.
Both Israeli and Palestinian officials, however, downplayed the reports and said they were premature.
However, the reports were enough for Economy Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party to warn that he will resign from the government, which may force another round of elections, if such a deal to release Palestinian prisoners is reached.
Hamas urges PNA to halt talks with Israel
GAZA, April 15 (Xinhua) -- Prime minister of Hamas in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniya urged on Tuesday the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to give up the approach of negotiations with Israel since it is "useless."
"We want a new strategy that does not depend on the negotiations with Israel. This strategy must be based on our national unity and halting peace negotiations," Haniya said during a conference in Gaza city on the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Full story