Arabic/Eng/Nat
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has welcomed the Israeli government’s decision to ask the United States to resume its role as mediator in the Middle East peace process.
The Palestinians are hoping that Washington will push Israel to accept a troop withdrawal from the West Bank.
The former Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, who met with Arafat in Gaza on Wednesday, said he hopes it will go ahead.
The latest development came after the first direct talks for several months between the two sides in the peace talks.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres travelled to Gaza on Wednesday for meetings with Yasser Arafat on the latest developments in the peace process.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have resumed after they broke off several months ago, but no peace proposal has been put forward despite days of meetings.
The most immediate sticking point is the delayed withdrawal of troops from the West Bank which Israel is committed to under the Oslo accords.
The U-S has been pushing a land-for-security plan under which Israel would withdraw from 13 percent of the West Bank, in exchange for greater Palestinian efforts to crack down on Islamic militants.
The Palestinians have accepted the U-S initiative, but the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far balked at the scope of the troop pullback.
The Israeli position led the U-S to abandon its role as mediator.
But after the latest round of talks appeared to reach deadlock, the Israeli government has asked the U-S to step in once again.
Arafat welcomed the move on Wednesday.
SOUNDBITE: (Arabic)
“It is an attempt by them (Israelis) to return to the American way and we are not against it”
SUPER CAPTION: Yasser Arafat, Palestinian Authority President
Peres, who was part of the Israeli Labour government which signed the Oslo accords with the Palestinians in 1993, said he hoped the troop withdrawal would go ahead.
SOUNDBITE: (English)
“I can understand the nature of the decisions that both the Palestinians and the Israelis have to take. They are serious decisions. I hope they will be taken in the proper way and redeployment will take place.”
SUPER CAPTION: Shimon Peres, former Israeli Prime Minister
The Israeli government has a wafer-thin majority and is bitterly divided over the issue of the West Bank redeployment.
But Peres has put forward a plan in parliament to guarantee Netanyahu a six month parliamentary safety net if he agrees to the troop withdrawal.
More than a dozen legislators of the Labour Party have said they would agree to the proposal.

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