Israeli opposition chief urges Abbas back to talks

Israeli opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich on Sunday urged Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas to seize the chance of resuming peace negotiations as the two met for talks at his West Bank headquarters.

According to a statement from her office, the two discussed "the situation in the Middle East and the chances of making progress between Israel and the Palestinians".

"Now is the time to respond to US mediation efforts to renew the talks," she told him, referring to Secretary of State John Kerry's bid to draw the parties back into direct negotiations after a hiatus of more than two-and-a-half years.

It was, she said, "important to return to negotiations immediately and to examine the positions of both sides on all issues".

In the run-up to January's general election, Yachimovich, who heads the centrist Labour party, ran a campaign focusing almost exclusively on socio-economic issues and scarcely mentioned the Palestinian question.

In Sunday's meeting, she told Abbas she had made clear to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the opposition would "provide a security net for him if he takes significant steps toward a political solution with the Palestinians".

"The Labour party is deeply committed to the peace process and to the two-state solution," she said, while pointing out that Israel's "highest priority" was the security of its citizens.

Several days ago, Yachimovich praised a move by the Arab League to amend its 2002 peace initiative to incorporate the principle of mutually agreed land swaps in the context of a final peace deal.

And she said Labour would consider entering government if any of the more hardline coalition partners threatened to bolt should peace talks take off in earnest.