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US Envoy Launches New Mideast Peace Mission

New mission comes as Israel's PM Netanyahu rebuffs American and Palestinian calls to halt the construction of Jewish settlements on occupied land in and near Jerusalem

U.S. President Barack Obama's point man in the Middle East is launching a new peace mission.

U.S. envoy George Mitchell hopes to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after a 15-month stalemate. It is his first trip to the region since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from a visit to Washington a month ago amid a deep rift in U.S.-Israel relations.

The United States has demanded Israel freeze construction in disputed East Jerusalem, on territory the Palestinians seek for the capital of a future state. Israel has refused, saying Jerusalem is its capital and it can build anywhere in the city.

Israeli parliamentarian Danny Denon, of Mr. Netanyahu's right-wing Likud Party, says there is a national consensus on Jerusalem.

"On the issue of Jerusalem, I hear the voices coming from people from the center, from the left, we are united about Jerusalem. As the united capital, there will not be any freeze on the issue of Jerusalem," said Denon.

The Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table until Israel stops building in East Jerusalem. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat says the Israeli government is torpedoing any chance of a negotiated peace.

"You have a government that is insisting on settlements, on dictation. What they are doing, they are undermining the two-state solution," said Erekat.

Under U.S. pressure, Israel is considering confidence-building measures to goad the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. These include the release of Palestinian prisoners, removal of roadblocks and handing more West Bank territory over to Palestinian security control.