Palestinians: Meeting delayed with Israeli vice PM

June 30, 2012 - 5:38 AM

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — A scheduled high-profile meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz has been postponed indefinitely, a senior Palestinian official said Saturday.

The rare high-level talks would have been a step toward resuming formal peace negotiations, although expectations were low that they would produce any breakthrough.

The official, who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue, did not give a reason for the delay. But Abbas has been under intense pressure in recent days from other Palestinians not to meet with Mofaz on Sunday.

Mofaz heads the centrist Kadima Party and has been urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make another push for a peace deal. But prior to joining politics, he was the Israeli military chief who led a bruising offensive in the West Bank, and that has not been easily forgotten by Palestinians. Therefore, hosting Mofaz in Ramallah was particularly touchy for some.

The Palestinian official said the meeting had not been cancelled entirely and the sides would seek a "proper time and place" for it.

Mofaz has previously proposed seeking an interim arrangement with the Palestinians, granting them independence within temporary borders, while final borders and other issues are subsequently worked out. His joining the coalition had set off hopes for a resumption of peace talks toward a Palestinian state, which last broke off in 2008.

But Palestinians insisted that the Abbas-Mofaz meeting would not mark a formal resumption of talks anyway. The Palestinians have refused to talk peace with Israel so long as West Bank settlement construction continues. Netanyahu insists that talks begin without preconditions and that all issues be resolved through negotiations.

A Mofaz spokesman had said previously that efforts were being made to arrange a meeting, but did not specify a date.