U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit Israel this weekend to continue efforts to get the Palestinians at the negotiating table.
A senior Israeli official said on Saturday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no intention of caving to Palestinian demands ahead of talks, and that his objective is clear: To renew negotiations immediately, without preconditions, with an assurance that negotiations will be held over a long period of time and will cover all the issues.
Netanyahu wants to avoid a situation whereby Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will try stepping away from the negotiating table after a few meetings and turn to the United Nations in September under the premise that Israel is to blame for the failure of the talks.
Meanwhile, the London-based Arab daily newspaper Al-Hayat reported Saturday that, according to Western and Palestinian officials, Kerry's plan to renew negotiations includes, among other measures, a quiet Israeli construction freeze in Judea and Samaria outside of the large settlement blocs without a public announcement and a phased release of 103 Palestinian security prisoners who have been in Israeli jails since before the Oslo Accords were signed.
The report was denied by Israeli officials, who said that the prime minister has no intention of releasing Palestinian prisoners as a good will gesture or a response to preconditions set by Abbas.
Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Avigdor Lieberman, said Saturday that the Yisrael Beytenu party (which he also chairs) will object to any Israeli concession.
"Whoever looks at the international arena understands that conditions are not yet ripe for a breakthrough," Lieberman said. "We will fight against and adamantly object to any decision regarding the release of terrorists or freezing construction."