April 22nd, 2010
04:12 PM ET
8 years ago

Mitchell in Israel; Netanyahu says 'no freeze' on construction

 Obama administration's special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, returned to the region Thursday.

Obama administration's special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, returned to the region Thursday.

(CNN) - Obama administration's special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, returned to the region Thursday, even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized that "there will be no freeze" on construction opposed by Palestinians and the United States.

Mitchell's visit comes in the wake of talks this week that included U.S., Israeli and Palestinian officials.

"At the end of those discussions last night, we thought it was fruitful for George to travel to the region," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. He provided no details.

The talks, conducted in Israel, included Dan Shapiro, of the National Security Council, and David Hale, one of Mitchell's deputies, Crowley said. It was not clear who represented Israel and the Palestinians.

In an interview Thursday on Israel's Channel 2, Netanyahu said "there will be no freeze in Jerusalem."

The United States and Israel have been at odds over Israeli plans to build residences in East Jerusalem.

"This is what we are arguing about," Netanyahu said. "They are saying we have to stop building and I say as prime minister of all the Israelis, there are red lines. This is a red line. I won't cross it. This is not a dispute with America."

Asked for a response to Netanyahu's comments, Crowley said, "I don't think that they necessarily are new."

"We understand that the Israelis have a long-standing position," he said. "But as [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] has said repeatedly, 'the status quo is not sustainable.'"

Crowley said the United States has received "a number of ideas from the Israelis" in response to "specific steps" that Obama administration asked them to take.

"Some of them address the concerns that we laid out in the initial conversation between Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu a few weeks ago," Crowley said. "Have they done everything that we'd like to see them do? No. But this is why ... we're continuing this conversation."

Crowley said Mitchell would meet with both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas while in the region.

Senior State Department officials, however, said they didn't expect any major breakthroughs from the talks. They noted that Netanyahu does not see any incentive to take action on settlement activity in East Jerusalem until negotiations start, and Abbas is tentative about holding talks with Israel without any commitments on settlements, especially given Arab League demands that settlement activity stop before negotiations begin.

Netanyahu's comments are not likely to make ending the ongoing rift between the United States and Israel over East Jerusalem construction any easier.

In March the Israeli government announced the construction of 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem as U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden was
visiting the Jewish state. The announcement outraged the Obama administration and led to the Palestinian withdrawal from agreed-upon indirect negotiations with Israel.

In a visit later that month to the United States, Netanyahu was presented with a set of concessions the White House wanted to see the Israel make in an effort to restart negotiations with the Palestinians.

Neither government detailed what the exact nature of the concessions were, but sources on both sides said a halt in East Jerusalem construction was among the demands from the Obama administration.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Netanyahu had informed the White House over the weekend that it would not stop building in East Jerusalem.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli government, would not comment on the report other to say that "the talks with the Americans are ongoing."

"We are working hard to find a framework that will allow for the resumption of talks." Regev said in reference to restarting negotiations with
the Palestinians.

Israel seized East Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six Day War in 1967 and considers it part of it's sovereign capital - a claim not recognized by the international community. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the future capital of their state.

Filed under: Benjamin Netanyahu • George Mitchell • Israel
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. gt

    stop the money then see what they say

    April 22, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  2. geecee

    This is getting a bit tiresome. Israel expects to control American politics – and the world's politics for that matter. They won't give an inch, but take a yard. Robert Kennedy was killed by a Palestinian for his (and the U.S.A.'s) support of Israel back in 1968; this Country was attacked in 1993 at the World Trade Centers and on 9/11 again because of our support of Israel. These Israelis don't want to give up a thing. When are we going to leave them alone and let them take care of themselves? If Israeli-Americans are unhappy with that policy, let them send $3Billion a year to support Israel. We U.S. taxpayers are tired of it. I feel bad that the horrible events Israelis experienced during this past century have only resulted in a deeper division among the World and Israelis, instead of an improvement. Sad, but they are their own worst enemy.

    April 22, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  3. Moderate Sean

    Hey, Netanyahu, give the US Gov't something to work with when it comes to moving along the stalled Peace Process. I understand your stance on the city of Jerusalem, but give me a break on repeatedly approving new settlements in the East Jerusalem and the West Bank....maybe the US should think twice about some of the billions we provide you each year?? Just saying...

    April 22, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  4. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    How about this: We cancel Israel's $3billion/year welfare payments, and promise all the Islamic states that Israel is no longer under US protection. That will fairly effectively "freeze" Israel's aggressions, if only because Israel has ceased to exist.

    April 22, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  5. Demands?

    What demands are being made of the Palestinians??? This whole article is about demands of the Israelis. Does this mean nothing is being asked of the Palestinians to stop supporting terrorists and stop being terrorists? Are the Palestinians being asked to compromise? To come to the negotiating table? Where is the fairness here?

    April 22, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  6. phoenix86

    When the Israeli state was formed after WW2, Ben Gurian asked the Palistinians to join them "as equal citizens" and participate in the government. The Palestinians bought the Pan-Arab line to push Israel into the sea.

    Since then, Israel has been attacked numerous times; has suffered through decades of terrorist attacks; and continues to be blamed by an ignorant press and liberal establishment for violent actions on the part of radical islam.

    The Status-Quo is not sustainalbe in the sense that as long as the Western idiots support a hardening of Palestinian positions, peace will never happen. Israel knows this and is doing absolutely the right thing.

    If we had anyone in the Obama administration with moral courage we could bring peace to the middle east, alas...no such luck.

    April 22, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  7. Ben in Texas

    The tighty whitey righties are always ragging on Obama for cow-towing to foreign heads of state, but then they turn around and accuse him of disrespecting Israel. Here is yet another example of Israel poking its finger in our eye and the weak-on-defense righties thinking that's just fine. Why should the U.S. put up with arrogant, abusive, and war mongering behavior from Netanyahu?

    Why don't we jerk him up short by stopping his annual tribute payment from the U.S., along with a total embargo on America arms shipments? Isn't that the right way to treat a country that disrespects the U.S.?

    April 22, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. IKHAN

    Mitchell is wasting his time.
    Ariel Sharon had once said perhaps in 2005, that "Israel controls America & Americans know it".
    Well we Americans better swallow that & forget about begging Israel to listen to us.

    April 22, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  9. ART

    All the arab nations should come together against Isreal. I have always thought that Isreal has a right to exist but as I get older and see the injustises done to the palestinian people and Isreals total disregard to the rule of international law with no repercussions, enough is enough. It is obvious they do not want any lasting peace

    April 22, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  10. Victim of GOP Taliban

    It is obvious that Netanyahu is not serious about peace and that he is playing games with America on negotiating a treaty.

    April 22, 2010 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  11. ran

    As long as Netanyahu is PM there will never be peace. He is the equivalent to the PLO Arafat of the past. Why the people of Israel continue to reelect Netanyahu is beyond me. The female who ran would have been 100 times better. Maybe the next election she or anyone other then Netanyahu will win and then peace can be started.

    April 22, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  12. ib

    All you Obama lovers take note; Obama is not loved the world over like you think. He is doing nothing but turning his back on our allies. Obama is a disagrace for this country.

    April 22, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  13. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Then the State Department and the DoD should put a freeze on all aid (financial and military) to the government of Israel. Let's see what happens to Bebe's coalition when his biggest source of foreign aid dries up!
    At the same time, we should recognize that there are organizations in Israel and Occupied Palestine that provide goods and services needed by many people. Any aid specifically to these groups MUST continue.

    April 22, 2010 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  14. MikeH

    Ok then, stop subsidizing Israel with billions of American Taxpayer dollars.

    If Israel want's to practice aparteid and ethnic cleansing, let 'em do it with private donations from AIPAC.

    April 22, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  15. Unicorn Diplomacy

    Ah, well. Looks like we've gone from our long standing middle east policy of honest broker to the new Obama policy of naive broker.

    Gee, it's almost like this administration doesn't have any experience or something!

    April 22, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  16. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    My only prayer is that our troops in the Middle East aren't targeted due to Israels actions, but I do support Israel as we all must.

    April 22, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  17. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    Of course Israel will continue to taking Palestinian land. And the terrorists will continue to grow in numbers. Israel will never know peace nor security until it learns to treat the Palestinians justly.

    I for one, would like my tax dollars to not go towards Israeli aid, we given them $3 billion a year and they spit in our face!

    April 22, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  18. L

    Perhaps it's time for a freeze on the billions in aid we send over.

    At best, it might change their position. At worst, it helps reduce the deficit.

    Better yet, spend it on energy independence projects instead, thereby reducing the enormous sums we send to the Arab nations via oil payments.

    April 22, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    Wow. Stop wasting my tax money on Israel please. They're ingrateful, self-deluded, self-important imperlialists just like the GOP.

    April 22, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  20. LIP

    Remember back when Netanyahu was voted out of office...the Israelies actualy thought that maybe he was a little too tough and hoped that maybe a softer approach to the situation and more glad handing would work better. Well, they found out that when you lean back, the opponant leans forward and wants more and at the same time starts firing rockets into your country every day and guess what folks...they have brought back the hardliner to do his job and all bets are off and all opportunitites are gone. Things will just get worse from here forward. After a couple of thousand years of being pushed around this globe, they have probably had enough and will start fighting back. The palestinians should have taken advantage of the softer approach.

    April 22, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  21. Harold

    Tell the Arab countries and the Obama government to stop complaining. In Late May 1967 when Nassar of Egypt brought his troops up against the Negev he declared on TV that he will push the Zionists into the Sea.
    The tables were turned and the Arabs were permitted to stay in most of what was the Jordan west bank. They are not being kicked out as the Jews would have been had Nassar gotten his wish.

    April 22, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  22. Harold

    Was any part of it false?
    Which part of it is offensive?

    April 22, 2010 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  23. Dean

    Well Mr. , Netanyahu when Iran attacks you we wish you all the best of luck.

    April 22, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  24. Harold

    How should this be moderated? By not telling the truth?

    April 22, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  25. Just me

    Why is it so hard to understand that Israel and Jerusalem belongs the Jews? It is their land! You may not like but that land is theirs. Yes this is Biblical, yes some will argue otherwise, so be it and yes I am a Christian! Say what you will, scoff as you will but that will change nothing! The greatest enemy of the Palestinian people is their leadership and NOT Israel!

    April 22, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
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