Well, Chuck Freeby wants to know about the meeting between Israels Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US special envoy Senator George Mitchell – and it has now concluded – with no agreement. Mr. Mitchell seemed optimistic heading into the meeting. He said he was
“Hoping for a summit next week.”
The two men discussed America's demand to freeze construction in settlements, including in eastern Jerusalem. This undoubtedly was part of the hang-up. Mr. Mitchell had said: “I hope we will reach understandings.” But Mr. Netanyahu has made it clear leading up to this meeting that this won't happen – not at any price.
But again – going into the meeting there seemed to be an up tempo and things were looking positive with Mr. Netanyahu saying that Israel was extending its hand in the search for peace. He also said before the meeting: “I hope that the current round of talks will see an achievement of agreements on the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria and in regard to the tripartite meeting”.
All this seemed to point towards Israel's readiness to jumpstart the diplomatic negotiations – but it was not to be.
Perhaps it was conditions surrounding the United States starting talks with Iran two weeks from now. Mr. Netanyahu is firmly opposed to such, saying repeatedly that now is the time to intensify sanctions.
But there is another party in this – that of the Palestinians. President Mahmoud Abbas has said that he will not meet with Netanyahu until he agrees to a complete freeze – including Jerusalem.
And it was also revealed today in the Israeli media that top negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat was in a meeting last week in Jerusalem at President Peres's residence. The Israeli goal of that meeting was to place pressure on Mr. Abbas to meet with Netanyahu along with President Obama.
The consensus in Israel has been shifting that a decision on a partial construction freeze in the West Bank is logical and would allow Israel and the US to avoid a confrontation before the United Nations General Assembly.
Middle East Correspondent