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Restart of talks uncertain as Palestinian prime minister skips Israeli meeting

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Substantive negotiations collapsed more than three years ago, in large part over construction in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians say there can be no negotiations as long as Israel continues to build homes in territories they claim for their future state. Israel says talks should resume without preconditions.

The letter says Israel must freeze all settlement construction and accept its pre-1967 war boundaries as the basis for the borders of a future Palestine, with mutually agreed upon modifications, according to drafts of the document obtained by The Associated Press. Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza — the territories claimed by the Palestinians — in the 1967 Mideast war.

Palestinian officials have confirmed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas withdrew a threat in earlier drafts of the letter to resort to dissolve the Palestinian Authority.

The authority was formed in the 1990s as an interim step toward independence for the Palestinians.

Both sides would suffer if the Palestinian Authority were dissolved. Tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants and security forces would lose their jobs, and Israel, as an occupying power, would be placed in charge of running the West Bank again.

At the urging of President Barack Obama, Israel and the Palestinians relaunched peace talks in September 2010 at the White House. The talks collapsed several weeks later after a limited Israeli freeze on settlement construction expired.

Early this year, the sides held low-level talks under the mediation of neighboring Jordan. Those talks stalled in continued disagreement over the settlement issue.

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