Pro-Israel News

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected two months ago, Iran has installed 7,000 centrifuges, indicating that he is nothing more than a new face to an old regime, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.

This was the fourth time since Friday that Netanyahu took aim at Rouhani, reflecting the fact that even as negotiations with the Palestinians are due to start in Jerusalem next Wednesday, Iran remains the top item on the prime minister’s agenda and is considered by him to be the most important national security challenge facing Israel.

The theme of Netanyahu’s comments on Rouhani over the past six days has been that the Iranians need to be judged by their actions, not their words – and that these actions have not changed, even though the words have become softer.

The installation of the new centrifuges, including 1,000 upgraded models with enhanced uranium enrichment capabilities, is proof , Netanyahu said during a tour of a cluster of new IDF bases to be built at the Hanegev Junction south of Beersheba, that Iran has not changed course.

“The Iranian president is trying to present a new face to the West, but progress on the nuclear program continues,” he said.

Netanyahu was blunter later in the afternoon before a meeting with a delegation led by US Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R–Wisconsin).

“I know that some [people] place their hopes on Iran’s new president. He knows how to exploit this and yesterday he called for more talks,” Netanyahu said. 

“Of course he wants more talks. He wants to talk and talk and talk. And while everybody is busy talking to him, he'll be busy enriching uranium. The centrifuges will keep on spinning. This isn’t a secret. The new Iranian president boasts that that is his strategy. He says, ‘I talk and I smile and I enrich uranium.’”

In addition to accelerating its enrichment capacities, Iran was also pursuing an alternative route, “the plutonium route,” the prime minister said.

“Unhappily, the situation is not getting any better; it’s actually getting worse,” he stressed to his visitors. “Iran is determined to get the bomb, and we must be even more determined to prevent them from getting it.”

Iran, he added, was also behind rocket and missile fire at Israel from the Gaza Strip.

During his tour of the new IDF base cluster south of Beersheba, Netanyahu said Israel would respond forcefully to any attack from Gaza and would not tolerate a drizzle of rocket fire from there on the South.

His government’s policy has been not only to stop the attacks in advance, but to respond harshly afterward.

“We saw this recently during Defensive Shield,” he said of the IDF operation in November that followed a spate of rocket fire, and which ended with an Egyptian brokered cease-fire.

“Now there is a quiet here that I am told has not been the case for more than a decade,” he said. “But no one can ensure that this quiet will not disintegrate, and if it does, the other side will come up against exactly the same policy that I just described, including during a time of a cease-fire.”

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Moshe Milner/GPO/Getty Images - In this handout image provided by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Democratic delegates from the U.S. House of Representatives headed by Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) August 6, 2013 in Jerusalem. The delegation is meeting with both Israeli and Palestinian government officials.

By Wednesday, August 7, 3:51 PM E-mail the writer

JERUSALEM— Saying the United States and the world were being misled by a false face of a more moderate Iranian leader, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday charged that Iran not only continues its nuclear program but has accelerated its quest to build a bomb in the weeks after voters there elected Hasan Rouhani president.

Calling Rouhani “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Netanyahu warned U.S. lawmakers at a meeting here, “I know that some place their hopes on Iran's new president. He knows how to exploit this, and yesterday he called for more talks. Of course he wants more talks.  He wants to talk and talk and talk. And while everybody is busy talking to him, he’ll be busy enriching uranium. The centrifuges will keep on spinning.”

In his first news conference since taking office, Rouhani said Tuesday that he was willing to participate in nuclear negotiations with the international community but stopped short of saying he would engage in direct talks with the United States.

Israel’s leadership has declared Iran’s uranium enrichment program an “existential threat,” and Netanyahu has sought assurances from the Obama administration that it would confront Iran, militarily, if necessary.

“Iran's work and quest towards the achievement of atomic weapons not only continues, it continues unabated — it's actually accelerated,” Netanyahu said.

Also troubling, Netanyahu said, were recent reports that Iran may be operating a heavy-water factory to produce plutonium, which also can be used in a nuclear weapon. 

“So the situation unhappily is not getting any better, it's actually getting worse,” the Israeli leader said.

Rouhani, who served as former chief nuclear negotiator for Tehran, is known in some circles as “the diplomatic sheik.”

That has Israel’s political and defense leadership worried that the United States and Europe might be tempted to relax rather than ratchet up pressure on Tehran to curb its nuclear ambitions.

“Rouhani is charming, he is cunning, and he will smile all the way to the bomb,” said Yuval Steinitz, Israeli minister for international affairs, strategy and intelligence, in an interview.

Steinitz said that rather than negotiate with Tehran, the United States and the international community should tighten the economic sanctions against Iran’s already stagnating economy.

In his remarks before journalists Tuesday, Rouhani said, “If we feel that the Americans are truly serious about resolving problems, Iran is serious in its will to resolve problems and dismiss worries.”

But Rouhani said Iran would not be bullied, and during his news conference, the new president repeatedly referred to unspecified “warmongering pressure groups” working for an unidentified country, which most listeners presumed to be Israel.

The Israeli intelligence minister said Tehran should hear from the United States and the international community that it has only two choices — voluntarily shutter its program to enrich uranium or “see it destroyed with brute force,” which he envisioned as “a few hours of airstrikes, no more.”

Steinitz shrugged at the possible consequence, and said he could envision Iran firing “several hundred missiles” at Israel in retaliation, producing “very limited damage because we can intercept many of them.”


Tuesday, August 6, 2013



A petition signed by 1,100 jurists, rabbis and diplomats was sent Monday to EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Catherine Ashton and the European Union's 28 foreign ministers, urging them to rescind Brussels' decision to impose financial sanctions on Israeli settlements. The petition deemed the EU's decision "legally flawed," saying it was based on different interpretations of international law that do not coincide with the reality on the ground.


The EU issued a new directive in mid-July calling on its member nations to limit or suspend their cooperation with Israeli institutions operating beyond the pre-1967 borders, which include Judea and Samaria, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The new funding guidelines, which may spell billions of dollars in losses for Israel, will go into effect in 2014.


The petition was organized by Alan Baker, Israel's former ambassador to Canada, who currently heads the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel's International Action Division.


Baker was quoted by The Jewish Tribune as saying that the 1,100 signatories included hundreds of lawyers, as well as senior ambassadors, professors and rabbis from Canada, Israel, the U.S., South Africa, the U.K., the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, France, Italy, Australia, Brazil and Chile.


Among those who joined the protest are former Israeli Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, U.K. House of Lords member Baroness Ruth Deech and former Israeli Ambassador to Washington Meir Rosenne.


Baker's letter to Ashton protested the "legally flawed and incorrect assumptions regarding both the legality of Israel's settlements and the status of the pre-1967 armistice lines as Israel's border."


Baker further warned that the EU's decision effectively states that "the border is the 1967 line" and that as a result "the Palestinians will find themselves getting support from the EU and [will be] far less inclined to enter into negotiations on these issues. … That's why I say in the letter that the Europeans are undermining the negotiations as well as their own commitments as a witness to the Oslo Accords and as the draftsman of Resolution 242, which talks about secure and recognized boundaries. They're acting in violation of their own positions that they've maintained throughout the years," he told the Jewish Tribune.


Maja Kocijancic, a spokesperson for Ashton, said she was "unaware of Baker's letter," adding that while the directive was only made official some two weeks ago, it was "already an ad hoc practice" by some of the bloc's members.


According to the report, Kocijancic said the directive would have little bearing on the issue of funding and that "not much would change" from the 2007-2013 funding period when, of the 800 million euros allotted to Israel, "less than .05 percent of the funds ended up in projects that take place in settlements."


Nachi Eyal, director of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, told Israel Hayom that the petition "was the first of its kind and it aims to serve as a tool for Israel's diplomatic efforts worldwide.


"Instead of standing up for our historical and legal rights, the State of Israel and its officials are cowering away and that is not how we can win this fight," he said. "The world needs to understand that there is a deliberate deception is being perpetrated [by the EU] and that Judea and Samaria belong to the Jewish people by their historic right as well as by law."


Monday, August 5, 2013

By , Washington

11:42PM BST 03 Aug 2013

In a letter obtained by The Daily Telegraph, 76 senators from both parties urge the White House to offer Iran no quarter despite the softer rhetoric of the newly sworn in President Hassan Rouhani.

"Until we see a significant slowdown of Iran’s nuclear activities, we believe our nation must toughen sanctions and reinforce the credibility of our option to use military force at the same time as we fully explore a diplomatic solution to our dispute with Iran," the senators write.

The Obama administration has taken a wait-and-see approach to Mr Rouhani, who won a surprise election victory after promising to end years of economic turmoil caused by Western sanctions.

Congress, however, is moving ahead with an aggressive new round of sanctions.

The House of Representatives voted this week 400-20 for measures designed to put pressure on the few remaining buyers of Iranian oil and to choke off Tehran's access to its dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

The Senate is expected to pass its own bill in September ahead of the next expected round of diplomatic negotiations between Iran and the six-nation bloc of the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

In the letter to President Barack Obama, the senators note that Mr Rouhani has "pledged re-engagement" with the international community but warn "Iran has used negotiations in the past to stall for time".

"We urge you to bring a renewed sense of urgency to the process," the senators write to Mr Obama. "We need to understand quickly whether Tehran is at last ready to negotiate seriously."

A senior Senate aide said that the letter, which was spearheaded by Senators Robert Menendez and Lindsey Graham, was intended to temper the optimism of some US officials that Mr Rouhani's inauguration would lead to a diplomatic breakthrough.

"Soft noises of Tehran changing its tune is one thing; a concrete action of stepping back from the nuclear precipice is a much different thing," he said.

Both Iranian and Western negotiators are focused on two competing timelines.

The first is how long until Iran reaches a "critical nuclear capability", the capacity to produce weapons grade uranium so quickly it would be undetectable to western intelligence.

The second is how long Iran's economy can withstand the severe sanctions regime and especially the stranglehold it places on access to foreign currency reserves needed to prop up the Iranian rial.

"The central question is which comes first: Iran reaching economic collapse or Iran reaching critical nuclear capability?" said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank.

"The single most important piece of intelligence for the US may not be about Iranian nuclear physics - it may have more to do with Iranian economics."

Analysts and Western intelligence are constantly working to produce estimates of both timelines.

A major report by the Institute for Science and International Security this month suggested that Iran's nuclear programme is likely to reach a critical stage by June 2014.

Its economic situation is difficult to assess but under the current sanctions regime, Iran is widely believed to have at least a few years of foreign currency reserves left.

US lawmakers hope that by stepping up current sanctions they can increase economic pressure and reduce the amount of time Iran has left to negotiate.

"There is a broad consensus that to get a negotiated deal with the Iranians, massively intensified sanctions are needed to accelerate the date at which their economy goes over the cliff," said Mr Dubowitz.

The small group of representatives who opposed the House sanctions bill this week argued that the US should use Mr Rouhani's inauguration as a chance to reset the relationship with Iran.

"Why aren’t we at least curious to find out whether or not President Rouhani means that he wants to pursue this course of peace?" said Representative Keith Ellison, a Democrat.

Some analysts have suggested, however, that the threat of new sanctions could strengthen Mr Rouhani's hand if he intends to try to convince Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, to negotiate.


Friday, August 2, 2013

WASHINGTON | Thu Aug 1, 2013 6:46pm EDT

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama spoke separately by phone on Thursday to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said, as the United States seeks to keep up the momentum for peace negotiations.

The calls came days after Israeli and Palestinian negotiators broke a three-year lull in talks and met in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

"President Obama called Prime Minister Netanyahu today to commend his leadership and courage in resuming final status negotiations with the Palestinians," the White House said in a statement.

"The president underscored that while the parties have much work to do in the days and months ahead, the United States will support them fully in their efforts to achieve peace."

A similar statement was sent regarding Obama's call with Abbas. "The president reaffirmed that the United States stands ready to support the parties in achieving a just and lasting peace based on the two state solution, and will continue to work closely with the Palestinian Authority to achieve this goal," it said.

The Israeli and Palestinian negotiators gave themselves about nine months to try to reach an agreement on ending their long-running conflict.

The talks are expected to go to a second round by the middle of August. The conflict has resisted all previous attempts to resolve it, which has led to skepticism about whether this round will have a successful end.

WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, said Obama, in his call to Abbas, stressed his support for the efforts that led to launching the peace process and the need to exploit the current opportunity by acting fast to keep up the momentum.

Abbas stressed the Palestinian commitment to a two-state solution and the need to reach a solution in the nearest time possible, the report said.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Thursday, July 25, 2013
By Calev Ben-David - Jul 25, 2013 7:26 AM ET

Israel’s Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom said there is “a good chance” Israelis and Palestinians will renew long-stalled peace talks on July 30 in Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced last week that the sides had agreed on a basis to restart negotiations that broke down in 2010. No date was set, and Shalom, speaking to reporters today in the West Bank city of Jericho, was the first official on either side to publicly give a specific day.

“There is a good chance that negotiations with the Palestinians will resume next week in Washington on Tuesday, provided there are no last-minute complications,” he said.

Shalom said Israel would not agree to freeze construction on lands the Palestinians seek for a future state, a longstanding Palestinian demand that had stymied the renewal of talks. The Palestinians say they have not given up that condition, and neither they, Israel nor the U.S. have disclosed on what basis the talks are to resume.

Shalom’s visit to Jericho -- the first by a high-ranking Israeli official to Palestinian-administered territory since 2007 -- was another sign of diplomatic thawing. He and Palestinian Planning Minister Mohammed Abu Ramadan pledged to cooperate economically, and to make that tangible, signed a joint declaration backing an industrial park in Jericho whose opening has been held up for years by political disputes.

No Substitute

“I believe it is better to talk than to fight,” Shalom said. “That doesn’t mean that economy is a substitute for the political track; the two should go together.”

Israel contributed water and electricity infrastructure to the park and has agreed to extend hours at the bridge between the West Bank and nearby Jordan to ease the shipment of goods, he said. While the Palestinians are responsible for administering Jericho, Israel maintains security control over all of the West Bank, which it captured in 1967.

The Japanese government, which is financing the project’s construction, said in a statement that the park is expected to create 7,000 jobs for Palestinians after it opens next spring.

“This project will have a high risk of failure if we fail to reach a just and lasting solution to the conflict,” Abu Ramadan said.

Twenty-four companies have agreed to be tenants in the project, which is being built with Japanese grants to total about $200 million, according to a statement handed out at today’s ceremony. So far, all the businesses are Palestinian-owned, and efforts are being made to bring in foreign investors, officials said. Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, attended the event.

To contact the reporter on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

JERUSALEM –  A spokeswoman for Israel's ruling Likud Party says parliament could vote as early as next week on a bill requiring a national referendum on any peace deal with the Palestinians.

Michal Gerstner said Tuesday that Israel already has a referendum law. The bill would shield the referendum idea against legal challenges.

Existing law calls for a referendum if the government cedes land under Israeli sovereignty, including east Jerusalem, annexed by Israel after the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as a capital.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he'll fast-track the bill to prevent a rift in Israeli society. Critics say a referendum adds an obstacle to the process.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said he has made progress toward restarting long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Read more:

Monday, July 22, 2013
July 20, 2013 - 6:36 PM

BY IAN DEITCH, Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry steps out of a vehicle as he prepares to depart from a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, July 19, 2013 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stepped up his drive to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, meeting with the Palestinian president Friday as he sought to close a deep divide between the two sides over a formula for resuming peace talks after nearly five years.(AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to resume peace talks with Israel only after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave him a letter guaranteeing that the basis of the negotiations will be Israel's pre-1967 borders, two senior Palestinian officials said Saturday.

A Western official, however, later denied that the '67 lines would be the basis of negotiations.

The Palestinian officials, both of whom are close to the Palestinian leader and privy to internal discussions, said the U.S. letter also stipulated that both sides are to refrain from taking any steps that would jeopardize the outcome of the talks. Israel is not to issue new tenders for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, while the Palestinians are not to pursue diplomatic action against Israel at any international organizations, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media.

"The talks with Kerry were about to collapse, and the letter came as a lifeline in the last-minute bargaining," one of the Palestinian officials said.

U.S. officials have said in the past that Kerry would reiterate standing American positions on the goals for renewed talks, including that a Palestinian state should be negotiated on the basis of Israel's borders before the 1967 Mideast war, when Israel captured the Gaza Strip, West Bank and east Jerusalem.

There was no immediate comment from the State Department, though a Western official denied the Palestinian officials' claim about the '67 borders.

"There are no terms of reference or any other agreements that the '67 lines will be the basis for negotiations," the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as the official had no authorization to speak to the media.

After a round of intense shuttle diplomacy, Kerry announced on Friday that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed on a basis for returning to the peace process, which broke down five years ago. The two sides are to meet — likely in the coming week — to work out final details on actually resuming their negotiations on the toughest issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kerry would not give details on the agreement on the negotiations' framework. "The best way to give these negotiations a chance is to keep them private." he said. "We know that the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead. Today, however, I am hopeful."

The Palestinians long refused to return to the negotiating table unless Israel agreed to several preconditions, including that the talks be based on Israel's pre-1967 borders. Israel frequently called for talks to resume without preconditions, insisting that all core issues should be resolved through dialogue.

Speculation has been rife for weeks that the sides would find a way to sidestep Israel's reluctance to offer assurances of the 1967 lines as the framework for talks by having the guarantee provided by the United States.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces sharp opposition from within his majority coalition to such a move. One key ally, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, has threatened to pull his Jewish Home Party out of the government altogether if the prime minister agrees to the border conditions.

The basis of the negotiations themselves — not the core issues at the heart of the conflict — has been a major impediment to resuming talks. On Thursday evening, the Palestinian leadership balked at dropping a main condition: They demanded a guarantee that negotiations on borders between a Palestinian state and Israel would be based on the cease-fire line that held from 1949 until the 1967 war.

Kerry's announcement late Friday suggested that the question had been resolved, although the top U.S. diplomat offered no details.

Netanyahu issued a statement Saturday evening welcoming Kerry's announcement and thanking him for his efforts, saying he "views the resumption of the political process at this time a vital strategic interest."

Earlier Saturday, Israel's intelligence and strategic affairs minister offered a few details on the framework. He confirmed that Israel would release some Palestinian prisoners, but said it will not meet other long-standing Palestinian demands before negotiations resume, such as a settlement freeze or defining the 1967 borders as the basis for talks.

Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio that prisoners Israel has agreed to release include some who "have been sitting in jail for dozens of years," He did not say how many would be freed, adding only that they would be released in phases.

The fate of the prisoners is extremely sensitive in Palestinian society. After decades of fighting Israel, many families have had a member imprisoned and the release of prisoners has been a longstanding demand. The Palestinians are held on a range of charges, from rock throwing to deadly assaults like shooting attacks or bombings targeting Israeli soldiers and civilians. The Palestinians mostly view the prisoners as heroes while Israelis tend to see them as terrorists.

In a sign of the opposition Netanyahu faces even within his own government, deputy defense minister Danny Danon issued a statement condemning the prisoner release, saying "these murderers must not be released as an 'act of good will' or as a prize for returning to the negotiating table."

Steinitz said it a nine-month timetable was agreed to for the talks to prevent them from collapsing along the way. He also said the Palestinians agreed to refrain from taking action against Israel at the United Nations while the talks are taking place — echoing the statement from the Palestinian officials.

Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians, Tzipi Livni, welcomed the revival of the peace process. She said it was difficult to restart talks after years of mistrust between the sides, but that she is "hopeful" about them.

"This is a very heavy responsibility," Livni told Israel's Channel 2 TV of the talks. "All the issues will be on the table."

Final status negotiations aim to reach a deal on the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Jerusalem, borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees and security arrangements. Talks ground to a halt five years ago, and previous efforts to revive them have stalled, particularly over Palestinian demands that Israel announce a freeze in construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which they claim as part of a future state along with Gaza. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said his group rejects Kerry's announcement, saying it does not recognize Abbas' "legitimacy to negotiate" on their behalf. The militant Hamas group rules Gaza, and has been at odds with Abbas since taking over the seaside strip in 2007.


Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.


Friday, July 19, 2013
Posted on July 18, 2013 by

( More than 5,000 pro-Israel Christians are expected to attend the annual Washington, DC summit of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) from July 22-24.

CUFI says that it is the largest pro-Israel group in the U.S., with 1.2 million members.

“Israel needs unwavering friends to stand and speak up on her behalf more than ever,” CUFI said on the summit’s webpage. “From Cairo to Beirut, from Gaza to Damascus, and from Ramallah to Tehran, the Jewish people are surrounded by enemies who seek to destroy them. These are truly dark and dangerous days for our ally Israel.”

Legislators speaking at the summit will include U.S. Reps. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), John Barrow (D-GA), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Tom Price (R-GA), and Peter Roskam (R-IL), as well as U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

“Over 5,000 Christians standing up and speaking up for Israel in our nation’s capital makes a powerful statement to our leaders that they cannot ignore!” CUFI said of the summit.

On July 24, summit attendees “will meet with their elected officials throughout the day and present the Biblical positions of our support for the nation of Israel and the Jewish people,” CUFI said.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

JERUSALEM (AFP) –  The Israeli military is preparing to lift some restrictions on Palestinian movement in advance of possible renewed peace talks, army radio said on Thursday.

"It appears that in the next few days the future of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will be determined," its reporter for the Palestinian territories reported.

"In the light of security assessments, two roads in the territories are expected shortly to be opened to Palestinian traffic; one north of Ramallah and one close to Beit Haggai," he added, referring to a settlement near the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

The radio quoted the military spokesman's office as saying that the plans were a gesture for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and not linked to peace efforts.

The office did not immediately reply to an AFP request for comment.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was to meet senior members of his Palestine Liberation Organisation in the West Bank city of Ramallah later on Thursday to brief them on his meetings in Jordan with US Secretary of State John Kerry, a Palestinian official said.

Kerry said Wednesday that his intense diplomacy in six visits to the Middle East was bearing fruit, narrowing gaps between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have said that they will not renew peace talks, stalled for almost three years, until Israel agrees to accept as a baseline the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war, when it occupied the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

They say Israel needs to freeze all settlement construction in the occupied lands, including in east Jerusalem, which it annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

Israel rejects such "preconditions".

Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom told the radio that easing some restrictions on Palestinians' daily lives did not constitute bowing to preconditions.

"I think that in the framework of opening negotiations, if we carry out what is known as confidence-building measures which do not endanger security, such things have always been possible as part of a larger context," he said.

"If it is the judgement of security officials that such a thing does not damage security, then of course we have the possibility to do that."

Read more: