Netanyahu Proposes Bi-Weekly Mtgs. with Abbas

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JERUSALEM, Israel - If all goes well next Thursday at the start of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians in Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would like to follow up with bi-weekly meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to set the framework on the principal issues.

Those issues include security, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), future borders, water rights, the status of Jerusalem, and the so-called right of return for Palestinian "refugees" and their descendents.

"Serious negotiations in the Middle East [need] direct, discreet and continuous talks between the leaders on the key issues," Netanyahu said.

In a preparatory meeting with his advisory board on Thursday evening, Netanyahu stressed the importance of the two leaders laying the foundation for talks, which would then be hammered out by a small team of negotiators.

Under the prime minister's direct supervision, Yitzhak Molcho will lead the team of senior officials through what Netanyahu described as "swift, thorough and serious" talks.

Molcho's team will likely include senior advisers Ron Dermer, Uzi Arad, and Yaakov Hadas, and military attaché Brig.-Gen. Yohanan Locker, plus a member of the Israel Defense Forces and the Defense Ministry.

Meanwhile, Obama sent three of his top Mideast advisers - Dennis Ross, David Hale and Daniel Shapiro - to Israel this week for closed-door meetings with Israeli officials to talk about the soon-ending construction ban in Judea and Samaria.

The Palestinians are demanding an indefinite extension of the 10-month moratorium, set to end on September 26, in exchange for entering direct talks with Israel.

Netanyahu has stated repeatedly that the construction ban would not be extended, nor were preconditions - such as extending the freeze - conducive to achieving a lasting agreement, which is only possible through face-to-face talks between the two parties, he said.

In the past few weeks, a number of cabinet ministers have stated publicly that construction would begin again, as planned, on September 27.  

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