While Israel preferred that the U.S. issue a presidential declaration on the peace plan, President Clinton was averse to the idea, and called for direct Israel-PA negotiations. These were resumed at various levels from January 11, 2001, and included meetings between Chairman Arafat and Tourism Minister Shahak, and Foreign Minister Ben-Ami and Palestinian negotiator Erekat. Israel demanded that a Palestinian leader retract charges that Barak was a war criminal. The Palestinians rejected an Israeli map. Arafat met with Ben-Ami and they decided that direct talks would start on January 20. On the eve of the talks to be held in Taba and Eilat, the Prime Minister again stated Israel's position on Palestinian refugees, Temple Mount and settlements. Text:
At its weekly meeting today (Sunday), 21.1.2001, the Cabinet took cognizance of both Prime Minister Ehud Barak's statement regarding the departure of the delegation to the negotiations with the Palestinians at Taba and the Israeli position on three main points:
1. Israel will never allow the right of Palestinian refugees to return to inside the State of Israel.
2. Prime Minister Barak will not sign any document which transfers sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Palestinians.
3. Israel insists that in any settlement, 80% of the Jewish residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza will be in settlement blocs under Israeli sovereignty.Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs