Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s chief envoy to peace talks, met clandestinely Tuesday morning with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, Israeli officials said. A second meeting, which took place Tuesday evening at an undisclosed location in Jerusalem, included Washington’s point man Martin Indyk, the officials said.
The participants agreed to meet again “soon,” at the end of the talks late Tuesday evening.
On Monday, Indyk urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to stay the course of the new round of talks — the first since 2010 — despite Israel’s continued settlement activity, Army Radio reported.
Tuesday’s round of peace talks came on the heels of an earlier round of discussions held quietly last week at an undisclosed Jerusalem location between Livni and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aide Yitzhak Molcho on one side and Erekat and Abbas adviser Mohammed Shtayyeh on the other.
Last week, the sides met for nearly five hours, and the meeting was described as “serious” by sources close to the talks.
The two sides, along with the US, which is shepherding the negotiations, have vowed to maintain radio silence in the hopes of muzzling critics who could scuttle the negotiations. On Tuesday morning, Livni told Israel Radio that holding talks without media coverage was meant to build trust between the two sides.
“The talks resumed. No photo opp. No statements. Why? to allow the teams to work together, and not to think about the media waiting outside,” Livni spokesperson Mia Bengel tweeted last Wednesday in a rare statement.
Abbas met with a delegation of the Israeli Hadash party on Tuesday, headed by MK Mohammad Barakeh.
At the meeting, Abbas said that there should be no “stacking of obstacles” in the form of increased settlement construction ahead of negotiations.
Barakeh said after the meeting that Abbas believes he can sign an agreement which would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that he can get such an agreement approved by a public referendum.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.