Ending a prolonged impasse, indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are likely to resume within days as the Arab League endorsed a U.S.-brokered plan, which seems to have satisfied both the sides.

“Israel is willing to renew negotiations with the Palestinians at any time and at any place,” hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

“This time the talks will take place without pre-conditions, unlike in the previous 16 years,” he added welcoming the Arab League’s decision to let the “proximity” talks between the two sides start.

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon expressed hopes that the talks could start in the coming days or at the latest coming week.

“It is a positive development. The Arabs also want to break the deadlock,” Mr. Ayalon told Israel Radio referring to Arab League’s decision.

“There may be a ceremony, this is still not clear, but more important is the process, which will deal with the basic issues,” he added.

Peace talks between the two sides came to a standstill after Israel launched a major offensive in Gaza in December 2008 just before U.S. President Barack Obama assumed office and remained stalled despite mounting pressure from Washington as Mr. Netanyahu government refused to meet the key Palestinian demand of complete halt in constructions in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The Israeli premier announced a temporary freeze on building activities in the West Bank in November but has resisted any such move in east Jerusalem.

The Palestinians, with Arab League backing, reluctantly agreed to indirect U.S.-mediated talks for a period of four months in March but it was nipped in the bud by an Israeli announcement to build 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem during a visit by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, a move dubbed by Washington as an “insult” that led to a severe crisis between the two close allies, described by many as the worst in 35 years between the strategic partners.

The Cairo-based League’s decision to endorse the indirect talks was taken by its committee of foreign ministers after receiving “guarantees” from U.S. President Barack Obama in a letter to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmud Abbas.

“Despite the lack of conviction of the Israeli side in achieving peace, the committee affirms what was agreed on the 2{+n}{+d} of March, 2010 in regards to the time period for the indirect negotiations,” an Arab League statement said.

A close aide to Mr. Abbas, PA secretary-general Tayeb Abdel Rahim, on Sunday said that Mr. Obama assured the PA that his administration is committed to a two-state solution and that a future Palestinian state will be independent and have territorial continuity.

Mr. Rahim added that the U.S. President relayed his message in a letter delivered by Mideast envoy George Mitchell while he visited the region last week in a bid to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

An Israeli official said Mr. Mitchell was expected back in the region on Monday.

Mr. Abbas’ key aide also said that the U.S. vowed to assign blame publicly to any party that takes provocative actions or jeopardises prospects for peace.

Mr. Obama has reportedly promised the PA President a prolonged Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Army Radio reported earlier today quoting London-based Arab-language newspaper Al-Hayat.

Asked by Israel Radio if Israel was considering a construction freeze in east Jerusalem, Mr. Ayalon however responded diplomatically, “On the ground, we will not prevent life from continuing because a question of principle, even of morals, is involved.”

Top Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat, told a Cairo news conference on Saturday that a final decision on indirect talks with Israel would be taken by the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee.

Mr. Erakat warned, however, that any Israeli construction in disputed east Jerusalem would bring an immediate halt to the process.

“If they build one unit out of the 1,600, we will not go to the talks,” he said.

Israel’s Nobel laureate President Shimon Peres, on Sunday welcomed upcoming resumption of indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, saying negotiations are “clearly a necessity” and in “Israel’s best interest”.

“There is a readiness in Israel to solve the obstacles at the basis of peace negotiations,” Mr. Peres said on Sunday adding, “It took a little longer than we hoped for and problems are not yet solved but at least the way to handle them is open.”

The octogenarian elder statesman also noted that the gaps between the sides are small and said Israel is interested in the establishment of a stable and independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“Israel has adopted the principle of two states for two peoples, and we extend our hand for an honest peace with our neighbours,” he said.

Mr. Peres made his comments in a meeting with Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen.

However, Islamic militant faction Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip since June 2007 after vanquishing Palestinian security forces loyal to Mr. Abbas, condemned Arab League’s endorsement of the U.S.-brokered plan to kickstart “proximity” talks.

“The endorsement and support for the Arab Committee to resume negotiations again, even after the occupation continues with its policies and settlements, is considered as accepting the situation as it is, and a new umbrella for it to commit more crimes and violations against the Palestinian people,” Hamas said in a statement.

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