September 18th, 2009
11:23 AM ET
13 years ago

U.S. envoy seeks to resume Mideast peace talks

JERUSALEM (CNN) - The hopes for renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks dimmed Friday despite the fast-paced shuttle diplomacy efforts of top U.S. diplomat George Mitchell.

Mitchell, the U.S. envoy for the Middle East, capped off a week of diplomacy in the region with a second round of talks with both sides. He met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Mitchell has been working to broker a last-minute deal before the start of the the Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown on Friday, and the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday this weekend. The deal would allow a trilateral meeting among Netanyahu, Abbas and President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York.

One of the sticking points has been the Israeli settlement freeze issue.

The United States and Israel have publicly disagreed on Israeli plans to build more housing on land the Palestinians regard as theirs, and Obama administration demands for a complete freeze have been ignored by the Netanyahu government.

Israel recently approved the construction of 455 new units - in addition to the about 2,500 already in various stages of construction - in the West Bank, over objections of Washington.

Abbas have so far rejected resuming talks with Israel until the Jewish state halts all settlement building in the occupied West Bank and in
predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem.

After Mitchell's meeting with Abbas on Friday, chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat told reporters that the settlement issue has still not
been resolved.

"The senator informed us that there is not an agreement yet with the Israeli side," Erakat said. "And we once again reiterated that there are no
middle-ground solutions for settlements. A settlement freeze is a settlement freeze."

In an interview Thursday with Israeli Channel 2, Netanyahu downplayed the importance of Obama's calls for a settlement freeze.

"There are 2,400 units that are currently being built, and another 500 that we approved. Do you want to call that a freeze? I don't call it a freeze, I call it a slowdown in building - I am willing to do that to help the process and in parallel to preserve normal life of the residents [of the settlements]."

Earlier in the week Netanyahu said in a closed-door Knesset committee meeting that Israel would agree only to a partial reduction of housing
construction and for a limited time, not the year the United States would like, said a government official who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the meeting.

Netanyahu said no agreement had been reached on the length of time for the building hiatus, the source told CNN.

Netanyahu has said in the past that a moratorium would not apply to East Jerusalem, which Israel claims as part of its sovereign capital since taking the territory away from Jordan during the Six Day War in 1967. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Filed under: George Mitchell • Middle East
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. A Democrat of 51 years who has finally got smart to their follishness.

    Obama will ruin any hopes of Irsael-Palistine truce talks with his policy now toward Iran. ABOUT CARTER AND HIS RACISM REMARKS. A FACT HIS GREAT-GRANDFATHER HAD THE FOLLOWING – It was John's son, Robert ("King") Carter, who became the first American millionaire. According to Harold Brooks-Baker, Debrett's managing director, hustling King Carter owned 300,000 acres, more than 1,000 slaves and perhaps the largest FARM EVER. DOES THIS SOUND RACIST OR WHAT. CARTER SET DOWN AND SHUT UP.

    September 18, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  2. Steve

    How much money do we support Isreal with year after year, decade after decade? A ton! Maybe it's time for that gravy train to end. Either play ball and get serious about peace in the region or fend for yourselves. I for one am tired of the US supporting Isreal to the extent we do and Isreal's arrogance towards the peace process.

    September 18, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  3. Kirk Williams

    What we need to do first is stop supporting the Israeli terrorist and give the Palestinians their land back.

    September 18, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  4. John Starnes Tampa Florida

    All that is needed is for Israel to accept the Saudi Peace Accord they've rejected twice...they get full recognition by all Arab states, acknowledgement of Israel's right to exist, and Israel FINALLY abides by UN Resolution 242 that they've defied since 1967 and simply give back the vast swaths of land they've stolen and occupied ever since. But now, now a Zionist regime vs. a safe homeland for the Jewish people as intended by the 1948 decree that created Israel, they insist on EXPANSION into more and more of OTHER people's land. Yet the US funds them unconditionally, regardless of their crimes, as in their brutal attack on the occupied land of Gaza. Bomb hospitals, UN food depot, use white phosphorus and DIME bombs on civilians, seal off Gaza from food, fuel, medicine and other basics for 18 months then whine about missiles coming from Gaza...Israel is the provocateur plain and simple.

    September 18, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  5. Zap

    History has proven many times over, don't mess with Israel. This history transcends the Bible, Torah, and the Korhan. People never learn God's will till it is too late.

    September 18, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  6. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Does it seem we have been reading the same story with different names for over 60 years? I though Carter had solved it? Isn't that why he was given that Nobel peace prize? Oh, thats right, that worked about as well as the Carter administration didn't it? He is sure an expert on everything isn't he?

    September 18, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  7. D. Tree

    Unfortunately Israel is making things more difficult by refusing to stop the construction of new settlements. It is an act of bad faith, which is preventing us from moving forward with peace agreements.

    September 18, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  8. Scott, Tucson

    Obama pro Islamic ideals can pretty much kiss off any kind of deals with the Israelis until after 2013.

    September 18, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  9. Aq

    It is really unbelievable that in this day and age we are talking about a country (Israel in this case) occupying somebody else's land (Palestinian land as recognized by the entire world) under the basis of religious belief that the entire land it for the Jewish people. Imagine if all countries invoke such beliefs and start land grabbing or doing extreme things. Isnt this a similar thing that Taliban, Al Qaeda and other extremist organizations/countries such as Iran do. On this aspec alone, should'nt Israel be held accountable for this illegal actions, while at the same tme offered protection, as a friend of US.
    Why mix Israel's wrong doings with anti-semitism and anti americanism. Why is it not possible for US to keep Israel as its closest friend, but at the same time forced it to stop being a spoilt brat.

    September 18, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  10. Carl Justus

    I do not think they will ever have a piece agreement between Israel and Palistine, because Israel is living in the past. Israel still thinks it is 1500 years BC when God gave Israel the land CONDITIONALLY, as long as they obey his commands it was theirs, Israel broke their word that they would follow the Lord and he took away the land as he promised them, and scattered them around the world as he said he would.

    Just because the USA and Britian took the land from the Palistinians and gave a protion of it back to Israel in 1948 does not count as them having all the land that was given to Abraham, Issac, Jacob and their off spring. Israel has not gotten that in their heads yet.

    September 18, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Tek

    No one argues that Israel doesn't have a right to defend themselves and that Hamas, Hezbollah and other groups aren't participating in terrorist activities. The argument is building settlements that the whole world recognizes as illegal. There isn't one nation in the world that agrees to Israel settlements. I think what Israel is doing would be equivalent to America snatching up land in Iraq or Afghanistan and building American settlements.

    September 18, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |