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Palestinians Want 6-Month Deadline for Reaching Peace Deal

05 October 2007

The Palestinian Authority is pushing for a tight timetable for reaching a permanent peace treaty with Israel. But as Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, Israel prefers a slower approach.

Palestinian officials want to set a six-month deadline for negotiating a final peace agreement with Israel.

Information Minister Riad Malki told a news conference in the West Bank that the timetable would begin after both sides present a joint document on Palestinian statehood at an international peace conference in the United States this year.

The United States wants to revive the peace process after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip more than three months ago.

Hamas routed the forces of the rival Fatah faction, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who now heads a more moderate government in the West Bank. Mr. Abbas believes swift movement toward a peace treaty would weaken Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel.

But Israel does not want deadlines. Officials say core issues like Jerusalem, refugees and borders have baffled diplomats for decades and it is impossible to resolve them in just six months. Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says the Palestinian Authority or PA. should take a more realistic approach.

"As much as the government of Israel and the government of the PA want to move forward in a process of peaceful dialogue and trying to move forward on the peace process, obviously the Palestinian narrative and the Israeli narrative differ sharply," said Regev.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will try to bridge the gaps when she visits here next week. Depending on progress, officials say she could announce a date for the peace conference.

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