JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is cool to a recent Palestinian proposal for an undeclared settlement freeze in east Jerusalem, an Israeli official said Wednesday.
Word of the Palestinian proposal for a quiet, six-month freeze in east Jerusalem in exchange for a return to talks comes as U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell arrives in the region to try and get the two sides to talk peace again.
The Palestinians have refused to resume negotiations until Israel halts all its settlement construction in lands captured from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war.
Netanyahu has announced a slowdown in building for 10 months that Palestinians have rejected as insufficient since it doesn’t include the eastern part of Jerusalem they want as their future capital. But an Israeli official said the Palestinian proposal would not fly.
“This is a non starter. It is not going to happen. This is against everything the prime minister stands for and believes in,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the offer has not been made official.
Mitchell is going to try and bridge the gaps in his latest diplomatic mission to the region. The former senator is trying to persuade both sides to resume talks aimed at ending their decades-old conflict. Previous talks broke off in December 2008.
The Obama administration has recently suggested bypassing the settlement issue by getting the two sides to discuss the borders of a Palestinian state, including a partition of Jerusalem.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said that by focusing on the endgame, such talks would defuse the problem of settlements. But Abbas’ insistence on a settlement freeze suggest that a resumption of talks is still not imminent.