Sources in the prime minister's office say that Benjamin Netanyahu denies that he has agreed to freeze construction in settlements and release Palestinian prisoners in order to enter into direct negotiations with the Palestinians. According to a report in Maariv newspaper on Wednesday, Netanyahu refuses to "pay a price" for the Palestinians' agreement to sit down and talk.
The denial came after reports about an agreement with US Secretary of State John Kerry that the Israeli government is ready to freeze construction and release some prisoners in return for the Palestinians giving up a return to the pre-1967 borders as the basis for negotiations. Kerry is due to arrive in the region today.
The sources noted that Netanyahu insists on a return to direct negotiations without preconditions, leaving him able to take steps like a settlement freeze or prisoner release during the discussions, depending on how they progress.