U.S. Special Middle East Envoy, George Mitchell, decided to delay his visit to Israel this week and will instead visit the region next week to hold meetings with Israeli officials. Meanwhile, Dan Shapiro, White House Top Middle East specialist arrived in Israel Wednesday.Shapiro and David Hale, the deputy of Mitchell who is permanently based in Israel, held at the Jerusalem office of Netanyahu extended talks with Netanyahu’s envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, and his advisor Ron Dermer.
According to Israeli daily, Haaretz, the arrival of Shapiro and the talks were held away from the media, and that neither Israel nor the United States have officially announced the talks.
But Israel is refusing to respond to the U.S demands, even verbally, yet the U.S and Israel are trying to reach an understanding on a joint position that would help advance the stalled peace talks.
Meanwhile, Mitchell stated that the White House is awaiting Israel’s response to the demands of U.S. President, Barack Obama.
The U.S. is demanding the Israeli government of Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to freeze all settlement activities in the occupied West Bank and in occupied East Jerusalem. Mitchell’s visit depends on the final Israeli response to the U.S. demands, Israeli sources claimed.
Mitchell’s Advisor, former US Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, stated in an article published by the New York Times that he called on the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to make a decision regarding settlement activities without any delay as this issue “could lead to a deterioration in the U.S.-Israeli relations”.
Indyk called on Netanyahu to choose between adhering to his right-wing coalition partners, or accepting the U.S. mediation and efforts to achieve peace.
Indyk further stated that Netanyahu refrained from attending the U.S. Nuclear Summit as he did not want to run into President Obama to avoid answering questions regarding settlement construction in East Jerusalem.
He stated that the lack of progress in peace talks with the Palestinians leads to improving the relations between the Arab countries and Iran.
Haaretz stated that Israel and the United States are formulating a statement that would bridge “the gaps” between the two countries regarding the resumption of the peace process with the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, will be heading to Washington next Sunday to deliver a speech at a conference sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.
U.S Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, will also be giving a speech at the conference.
Barak will hold a meeting with General James Jones, the U.S National Security Advisor, Clinton and several other senior US officials.