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US envoy pressing for settlement curtailment | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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JERUSALEM (AP) – Washington’s special envoy to the Mideast will press Israel on Wednesday for further concessions on settlement construction, having failed a day earlier to reach an accommodation palatable to the U.S. and the Palestinians.

U.S. official George Mitchell and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were holding a previously unscheduled meeting because of the continued stalemate.

The U.S. has a lot on the line, having reached out very publicly to the Arab and Muslim world and taken an uncharacteristically tough stand against Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The Palestinians claim those lands as part of a future state and have demanded a complete construction freeze. The Obama administration has echoed that demand. Netanyahu has offered a temporary moratorium on construction in the West Bank that would last several months. But he says the moratorium won’t apply to some 3,000 apartments that already have been approved, some of them as late as last week. And he also has refused to halt building in east Jerusalem.

Israel annexed that sector of the disputed city after capturing it in 1967, and unlike the rest of the international community, does not consider it a settlement.

The Palestinians see it as capital of their hoped-for state.

Netanyahu’s strategy is to make gestures to the U.S. without risking the stability of his coalition government, dominated by hardline settler patrons like himself. But the Palestinians and the U.S. have dug in and rejected his proposals.

Failure to reach a compromise could scuttle any meeting between Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York next week, on the sidelines of a U.N. session. The U.S. has been hoping to use such a meeting as a prelude to renewed peacemaking, and there has been speculation that President Barack Obama would attend to give it added heft.