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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

'Settlement freeze' demand goes under the bus

Well, here's some good news:
After US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he discussed "important steps to restrain settlement activity" with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell went a step further, saying that an Israeli settlement freeze is not essential for peace talks with Palestinians to resume.

Speaking to reporters after Obama's meeting with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Mitchell said the United States had never presented "preconditions" and did not want either party to do so.

The White House, eager to announce a re-launch of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians during the tripartite meeting, had demanded since Obama's swearing-in as president a complete halt to all settlement activity.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stressed the point when she told Al Jazeera in May "We want to see a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth - any kind of settlement activity."

Mitchell's statements Tuesday and Obama's watered-down demand that Israel "restrain" settlement activity follow a week of to and fro shuttling by Mitchell between Jerusalem and Ramallah, which as late as Friday failed to milk from both Netanyahu and Abbas commitments which Obama could confidently announce to the world Tuesday.

Asked if it was possible for talks to resume without a settlement freeze, Mitchell told reporters: "We are not identifying any issue as being a precondition or an impediment to negotiation. Neither the president nor the Secretary [of State] nor I have ever said of any one issue ... that it is a precondition to negotiations," he added.

Mitchell said the United States had put forward "suggestions" that would allow negotiations to resume under the best possible conditions, with the best chance of success, but added "we do not believe in preconditions. We do not impose them and we urge others not to impose preconditions."


At 9:33 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Obumbler gave in. Israel should quietly drop the settlement freeze offer. If the US no longer wants it, its no longer necessary for Israel to offer a concession the Arabs will never reciprocate.

Netanyahu's strategy of wearing down Mitchell with endless haggling turned into a very big victory for Israel. The Palestinians cannot be pleased the US let them down.


At 12:23 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Do you thin BiBi and Israel are beginning to teach Obama a few lessons, and soften his stance?


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