U.S. Peace Envoy Delays Israel Visit Until ‘Substantial Gesture’ Made
March 16, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Diplomatic relations between the United States and Israel are perhaps, the worst they have been in recent memory, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu digs in, determined to go forward with Jewish settlements, rejecting any meaningful two-state solution to the violence that has racked the region. After the peace talks fiasco, during Vice President Biden’s visit to the Jewish state last week, and strident language from both sides after the fallout, U.S. special peace envoy George Mitchell is delaying his planned trip to Israel. U.S. State Department officials have signaled that the Obama administration wants to see a “commitment” from Israel to halt settlements in East Jerusalm, before Michell is dispatched to the region. Without a “substantial gesture” from Israel, say U.S. officials, a visit from a peace envoy would be useless.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, said “We want to make sure that we have the commitment from both sides that when he travels we can make progress.”
And behind the scenes the diplomatic negotiations are fast and furious, as Israel seeks to convince Mitchell to go forward with his visit, before Netanyahu makes his scheduled trip to the U.S. on Sunday to speak before the pro-Israel group AIPAC.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued three demands to the Israelis, that must be addressed, before the United States offers its diplomatic capital, once again, to convince the Palestinians to join peace talks:
“Israel must reverse its approval for construction in Ramat Shlomo, make a “substantial gesture” towards the Palestinians and publicly declare that all of the “core issues” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, be included in upcoming talks.” Netanyahu plans to respond to Clinton’s demands by Tuesday.
But there is no indication from the Israel Prime Minister that he plans to stop the expansion of Jewish settlements in the volatile area of the Holy City.
“For the past 40 years, no Israeli government ever limited construction in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem,” said Netanyahu on Monday.