Palestinians say Israeli letter falls short

Palestinian officials on Sunday dismissed a new Israeli proposal for restarting peace talks, saying the document falls short of their long-standing demands.

The cool reception bodes poorly for hopes the resumption of peace talks between the Palestinians and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who fortified his ruling coalition last week by bringing in the main opposition party.

Netanyahu's alliance with the centrist Kadima Party raised speculation that he might make a more generous proposal to the Palestinians now that he no longer has to rely on hardline nationalists to keep his governing coalition intact.

The Palestinians have said they will not resume talks until Israel halts settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, occupied territories that the Palestinians claim for a future state. They also want assurances that the borders of a future Palestine should be based on Israel's lines before the 1967 Mideast war, when it captured the territories.

Netanyahu's envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, delivered a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday night outlining Israel's positions. Abbas briefed the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization about the letter on Sunday.

Wasel Abu Yusuf, a member of the committee, said the letter "spoke about a Jewish state next to a viable Palestinian state."

But it made no promises to halt settlements or return to the 1967 lines, and reiterated Netanyahu's position that talks should resume without any preconditions. Netanyahu says all areas of disagreement should be resolved in negotiations.

In a statement, the committee said the letter "doesn't include clear answers about the central issues that are undermining the resumption of the peace process."

Abbas is expected to consult with Arab leaders in the coming days to formulate a formal response to Israel.