Israel is giving U.S. special envoy George Mitchell no signs it will
compromise on its policy of expanding settlements in the West Bank. Mitchell - who has
been pressing Washington's demand for a settlement freeze - will meet
again with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after talks
Tuesday made no apparent progress.
The U.S. special envoy
for the Middle East and the Israeli prime minister went into a two-hour meeting Tuesday, saying they hoped for
progress in ending the stalemate that has pushed relations between
Washington and Israel to a low point.
Mitchell indicated he
wants to reach an agreement with the Israelis to halt settlement
construction during this visit, which started on Saturday.
hope to bring this phase of our discussion to an early conclusion and
to move forward in our common search for comprehensive peace in the
region," said Mitchell.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for
the Israeli prime minister's office, told VOA the two-hour conversation
was - in his words - good, but there were no signs of a breakthrough.
trying to achieve a package that will allow the restarting of the peace
talks. A package where both Israel and the Palestinians, and the Arab
side take steps that will allow restarting political talks between
Israel and the Arab states, [and] Israel and the Palestinians. That's
the goal. And we're hopeful that it's possible to do so," Regev said.
officials have said they might consider limiting some construction on
the settlements, but not stopping it altogether. The Palestinians
demand a total freeze.
A second, previously unscheduled meeting was set for Wednesday between Mitchell and Mr. Netanyahu.
no concessions from Israel in hand, Mitchell traveled to the West Bank
late Tuesday to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who Mitchell
hopes will join Mr. Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama for talks
on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly next week.
A meeting in New York could be a first step toward resuming stalled negotiations.
Palestinians have said they will not reopen talks until Israel stops
building on its settlements in the West Bank, but aides to Mr. Abbas
say he may still meet with Mr. Netanyahu in New York.
Israel angered Washington last week, when Defense Minister Ehud
Barak approved building permits for 455 new homes in settlements.
day before meeting with Mitchell, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel will
proceed with existing plans to build 3,000 homes in the West Bank. He
said his government would not stop the expansion of Jewish
neighborhoods in traditionally Arab East Jerusalem, which Israel
annexed in a move that has never been recognized by the international