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Palestinians ready to ease demands

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinians officials are ready to drop their demand for a freeze on Israeli settlement construction to get peace talks back on track, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The AP said it was told by an official that the Palestinians will drop the demand for a full construction freeze and resume peace talks if Israel accepts President Barack Obama's proposal to base negotiations on a broad Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war. The AP said the official would only speak on condition of anonymity.

The issue is at the heart of the current impasse. The latest round of talks was launched last September at the White House after a two-year breakdown, only to collapse three weeks later with the expiration of an Israeli slowdown on settlement construction. Palestinians had sought a full freeze on all construction before resuming negotiations.

Officials in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wouldn't comment on the Palestinians' latest offer.

But Netanyahu on Thursday told Israel's third annual Presidential Conference that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be solved until Palestinians accept the existence of a Jewish state as the homeland of the Jewish people.

"It begins with six simple words. I will accept the Jewish state. That's what will change history," Netanyahu said.

The Palestinians have resisted Netanyahu's repeated call to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland.

Recognizing Israel would require them to accept that most Palestinian refugees from the war surrounding Israel's 1948 creation would be denied repatriation in Israel.

Palestinians ready to ease demands 06/23/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 23, 2011 11:59pm]

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