Last updated: 3 December, 2011

Israel blames Palestinians for peace stalemate

Israel on Saturday blamed the Palestinians for stalled peace talks, in a rebuttal to US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta who said the Jewish state must take concrete steps to revive the process.

“To our regret the Palestinians are the ones who decided to boycott the negotiations,” Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told AFP.

“We would like to see direct negotiations with no preconditions, and we stand ready to resume them. But the Palestinians must renounce their attitude of rejection,” Regev said.

His comments come a day after Panetta urged Israel to try and end its increasing regional “isolation” by repairing diplomatic ties with Egypt and Turkey and renewing peace efforts with the Palestinians.

“Unfortunately, over the past year, we’ve seen Israel’s isolation from its traditional security partners in the region grow, and the pursuit of a comprehensive Middle East peace has effectively been put on hold,” he said.

Israel needed “to lean forward on efforts to achieve peace with the Palestinians,” Panetta said on Friday at an event organised by the Brookings Institution’s Saban Centre for the Middle East, a Washington think tank.

“Just get to the damn table,” he said, when asked what concrete steps Israel needed to promote peace with the Palestinians.

Regev insisted that Israel had accepted to resume peace talks without preconditions following a bid in September by the Middle East Quartet to revive negotiations.

The Quartet — the European Union, Russia, United Nations and United States — has been working to relaunch direct peace talks, which ground to a halt shortly after they began over the issue of Israeli settlement construction.

But the efforts have so far failed and the Palestinians have said they will not resume talks before Israel freezes settlements and accepts the 1967 borders as the basis for negotiations.

Israeli-Palestinian talks came to a halt in September 2010 when Israel ended a moratorium on construction in the occupied territories.