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The World

March 3, 2011

Israel: No Palestinian peace deal possible now

JERUSALEM — Israel has concluded that a final peace deal with the Palestinians cannot be reached at this time and is weighing alternatives to try to prove that it is interested in keeping peacemaking with the Palestinians alive, officials said Thursday.

With popular protests shaking up the Mideast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under fierce international pressure to prove he is serious about getting peacemaking moving again, especially after the U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel's West Bank settlement construction last month.

Israeli officials are meeting with international mediators, including U.S. envoy Dennis Ross and representatives of the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers — the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia — due to arrive in the region next week.

Government officials say Netanyahu is expected to deliver a major policy speech on peacemaking in the coming weeks, hinting at a change in direction away from direct talks on a peace treaty.

Privately, officials say Netanyahu is considering a phased approach to peacemaking, but contrary to published reports, it is not clear if he is open to the concept of a Palestinian state within temporary borders.

"The consistent refusal of the Palestinian leadership to negotiate with Israel has made a negotiated agreement all but impossible to achieve, at least for the time being," one government official said. "And so we're looking at an Israeli initiative, and steps that we can take that would be a phased approach to a final status agreement."

Officials did not offer details of the alternatives Netanyahu was considering. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the emerging plan.

U.S.-led peace talks, launched six months ago with the ambitious goal of striking a final deal by September 2011, broke down shortly after they began over Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

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