Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

US envoy faces stalemate with Israel, Palestinians - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page
In this photo released by the Israeli Government Press Office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell meet in Jerusalem, Sept. 18, 2009 (AP)

In this photo released by the Israeli Government Press Office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell meet in Jerusalem, Sept. 18, 2009 (AP)

JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – A burst of shuttle diplomacy by U.S. President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy on Friday did not produce immediate results, with Palestinian and Israeli leaders still at odds over terms for resuming direct talks.

An Israeli official said after envoy George Mitchell met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem that Israel might freeze settlements in the West Bank for longer than the six months it previously suggested, but not for as long as a year.

“Israel will agree to extend the freeze beyond six months — possibly nine months, but less than a year,” the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity. However, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, speaking after a later meeting between Mitchell and President Mahmoud Abbas in the nearby West Bank city of Ramallah, told reporters: “Mitchell’s shuttle visit has ended without agreement. “There is no agreement yet with the Israeli side and no middle ground solution,” Erekat said as Mitchell headed back to Jerusalem for a planned further meeting with Netanyahu.

Mitchell was due to head home later on Friday.

Abbas has demanded a full halt to settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a condition for resuming negotiations on a final peace settlement that were broken off in December. Obama has endorsed that call, urging both sides to meet the terms of a 2003 U.S.-backed “road map” for peace.

Netanyahu has ruled out stopping construction in East Jerusalem and wants settlements in the West Bank to be able to grow to accommodate the expanding families of current settlers.

With both sides heading into respective public holidays — the Jewish New Year and Muslim Eid al-Fitr — the former senator is on a tight deadline to persuade the two leaders to join Obama at a possible trilateral meeting in New York, when all three are to attend next week’s General Assembly of the United Nations.

Erekat said such a meeting was still possible — but would be “meaningless” with a change in position by Netanyahu. Both Palestinian and Israeli officials acknowledge that it will be hard for their leaders to refuse an invitation from Obama, who has pledged to work to settle six decades of conflict as part of efforts to stabilise the Middle East as a whole. However, there is little indication that Netanyahu, whose coalition has support from West Bank settlers, will offer more than a temporary freeze in construction lasting some months.

A further key issue is Israeli reluctance to commit to a target schedule for reaching a final settlement, possibly in no more than two years, that would create a Palestinian state.

Abbas, facing a strong challenge from the Islamist movement Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip, has rejected suggestions that he negotiate possible temporary arrangements with Israel.

A Palestinian woman who was denied entry by Israeli security officers stands by the controversial Israeli barrier at Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah, September 18, 2009 (REUTERS)

A Palestinian woman who was denied entry by Israeli security officers stands by the controversial Israeli barrier at Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah, September 18, 2009 (REUTERS)

A Palestinian man and an Israeli soldier argue at the Bethlehem checkpoint after the soldier prevented the man from crossing into Jerusalem to attend the fourth and last Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Sept. 18, 2009 (AP)

A Palestinian man and an Israeli soldier argue at the Bethlehem checkpoint after the soldier prevented the man from crossing into Jerusalem to attend the fourth and last Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Sept. 18, 2009 (AP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

More Posts

Follow Me:
FacebookGoogle PlusYouTube