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Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations stumble over which issues come up first

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat address reporters on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2013. [State Department photo]

While outwardly looking positive and accommodating, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are in fact in disagreement over when to bring up core issues such as borders and security, with the Palestinians wanting to talk about borders first, and the Israelis wanting all topics to be discussed at the same time, senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Yasser Abed Rabbo said Wednesday.

Speaking on the Voice of Palestine radio station, Abed Rabbo said that from the Palestinian perspective, the Israeli demand to talk about all the issues at the same time could be seen as an attempt to thwart a deal. He added that the Palestinian Authority informed the Americans that Israeli construction beyond the pre-1967 lines would doom the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations.

Israeli officials in Washington said on Tuesday that the venue for talks from now on would alternate between Jerusalem and Ramallah. A date for the next meeting has yet to be set, but once underway, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations are expected to be intensive and deal with core issues. General outlines will be formulated on each issue, after which professional teams from both sides will go into the details. Palestinian sources said talks would focus first on technical issues. The borders of the future Palestinian state and security arrangements that Israel is requesting won't be discussed during the initial stage, sources said.

Speaking on Israel Radio on Wednesday, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who has been briefed on the talks, said Israel's position is that the talks are about the two-state solution, with land swaps. “We are talking about two states and the settlement blocs. Ariel, Gush Etzion, Maaleh Adumim are part of Israel and the Palestinians are going to have to come to terms with that," Lapid said.

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