President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell met Palestinian leaders Friday as he continues his third peace mission to the region. It has been tough going for the diplomatic mission.
U.S. envoy George Mitchell met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Mr. Abbas urged the United States to pressure Israel's hawkish new government to uphold previous peace agreements and agree to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters that if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to reject the two-state solution it would weaken Palestinian moderates, strengthen the extremists and push the region toward chaos and violence.
Mr. Netanyahu took a hard line on Palestinian statehood when he met with Mitchell on Thursday. He demanded that first, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, something they refuse to do. Mr. Netanyahu also warned that the Islamic militant group Hamas could seize control of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, just as it ousted Mr. Abbas from the Gaza Strip in 2007. Hamas refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon says times have changed since Israel agreed to the land-for-peace formula under the Oslo Accords in 1993.
"It's not going to be the old policy as usual, first of all because old policies didn't work," he said. "We have 16 years to show what Israel has been doing with the most dovish approach and the most dovish governments, without really resolving the conflict; on the contrary."
The new government believes territorial concessions only led to terrorism and wars and that it is time for a new approach. Mitchell responded that the U.S. sees a Palestinian state as the only way to peace. So there could be trouble ahead for the peace process and U.S.-Israel relations.