Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has traveled to Jordan as Tel Aviv and Washington seek to press the Palestinians to agree to direct peace talks.
In a surprise visit to Amman on Tuesday, Netanyahu tried to rally support from Jordan’s King Abdullah II for a shift from the US-mediated indirect "proximity talks" to direct negotiations.
The visit comes a day after a Palestinian document surfaced, noting that US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell is also pressing the Palestinians to restart direct peace negotiations with Israel.
The Palestinians have rejected the idea and demanded progress on key issues in the ongoing negotiations before the resumption of the direct talks, which broke down in the wake of Israel’s offensive against the Gaza Strip in late 2008.
During his two-hour meeting with King Abdullah, Netanyahu emphasized "the need to ensure direct, serious and effective negotiations" toward a two-state solution, Associated Press cited Israeli media as saying.
Having grudgingly acquiesced with the idea of a Palestinian state under international pressure, Israel is refusing to commit to borders before the peace talks start and insists Palestinians must join Israel at the negotiation table with no preconditions.
"The formula for peace is a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state," Netanyahu said in a speech after returning home. He also demanded security arrangements without giving details.
The Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat challenged Netanyahu, saying the "key to direct negotiations lies in the Israeli prime minister’s hands."
Netanyahu must accept the obligations of previous Israeli governments concerning the borders of a future Palestinian state and stopping settlement construction in the West Bank — which should be considered terms of references for direct talks to start, he said.
"These are not Palestinian conditions, they are Israeli obligations which must be met," he added.