The negotiations are being held under strict secrecy with no briefings to journalists or leaks to the media. However, at a meeting with senior officials from his own Fatah party in Ramallah, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas summed up the state of the talks to date.
He said the Palestinians are negotiating statehood with Israel on the basis of the pre-1967 West Bank border, and the talks are making headway.
He said he only agreed to resume bilateral talks after receiving assurances from the Americans, even though Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu refused to make a public declaration confirming that the old green line border between Israel and Jordan would form the basis for the negotiations.
Mr Abbas also confirmed for the first time that Israel agreed to release 104 veteran hardcore Palestinian prisoners on condition that the Palestinians put on hold plans to seek international recognition for statehood.
Senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath had a more pessimistic interpretation on the state of the talks, saying that so far no progress had been made.
He said that Israel had not presented any proposal that would contribute to the success of the negotiations. If the talks reach an impasse, he warned, the Palestinian Authoritymay turn once more to international institutions.
The US state department meanwhile confirmed that mediator Martin Indyk had participated directly in one of the negotiating sessions.
Israeli president Shimon Peres denied the talks were at an impasse, and told army radio that there has been progress.
“What has happened in the meantime is that you sit down with Abu Mazen (Mr Abbas) and negotiate with him; he stands up and says to you, ‘I don’t want to return to Safed or to Jaffa’ (Arab towns, now part of Israel); he says to you that he is in favour of peace, and that he is in favour of a Jewish state.”
According to senior Israeli officials quoted by the Ha’aretz newspaper, the talks currently focus on whether the 1967 border, with territorial exchanges, will be officially recognised as the basis for a future agreement.
Israel is demanding that talks first be held about security arrangements, and only afterwards about borders. The Palestinians are demanding that talks be held about both simultaneously.
More than 30 Israeli ministers and Knesset members who support the peace process had planned to meet today with Mr Abbas at his Ramallah headquarters, but the meeting was cancelled at the last minute.