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Israeli sources say peace talks could resume

American pressure could bring results, but fourth prisoner release could pose ‘a problem,’ official says

US Secretary of State John Kerry stands with Tzipi Livni, Israel's chief negotiator (left), and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, after the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the State Department in Washington, July 30, 2013. Those talks stalled in 2014 and have not resumed. (US State Department)
US Secretary of State John Kerry stands with Tzipi Livni, Israel's chief negotiator (left), and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, after the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at the State Department in Washington, July 30, 2013. Those talks stalled in 2014 and have not resumed. (US State Department)

The sputtering Israeli-Palestinian peace talks could resume soon because both sides understand that this is the final opportunity to forge an agreement, Israeli sources close to the negotiations said Sunday.

American pressure to continue the talks could convince the two sides to resume formal meetings, because “the sides understand that this is the last chance,” a senior Israeli official told Yedioth Ahronoth.

The current impasse raises the possibility that the Americans could withdraw support for the peace talks, so “we have to find a way to not end these negotiations,” the source said, adding that the possibility of freeing Jonathan Pollard, which was raised last week as part of a package deal to entice the sides back to negotiations, was off the table for the moment.

Since Wednesday, when the talks last stalled, there has been a flurry of high-level meetings aimed at restarting talks, but the ball remains in the Palestinians’ court, another senior Israeli source said. If the Palestinian Authority insists on the release of the fourth group of prisoners, intended as a confidence-building measure by Israel, there “will be a problem.”

The source called on the Palestinians to be more flexible, but added that “it seems impossible” that the Palestinians will back down on their demand for the prisoner release, which Jerusalem has refused to go through with.

The peace talks ground to a halt over the past two weeks as the Palestinian Authority refused to agree to a US framework agreement for further talks beyond the April 29 deadline for the negotiations, and Israel balked at the release of additional Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorism in exchange for continued talks that were not likely to continue.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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