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Netanyahu-Mitchell Talks End, More Planned

Netanyahu and Mitchell talks in London left a cloud of optimistic uncertainty that likely will lead to talks with Abbas – but no negotiations.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 8/26/2009, 4:13 PM

Israel news photo

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell concluded discussions lasting several hours Wednesday afternoon in London, without any formal agreement on American demands.

The Obama administration wants Israel to stop all building for Jews in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, a move that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has said is a condition for resumption of direct negotiations with Israel.

The London talks apparently paved the way for more talk, next time with Abbas, who said in Ramallah that he is open to a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu when they attend the opening of the General Assembly at the United Nations next month.

After the meeting in London, both leaders continued to present optimistic statements about “progress” towards a resumption of direct PA-Israeli negotiations, which in effect have been conducted with the United States as a proxy for the PA. The discussions between Mitchell and the Israeli leader are a continuation of American attempts to keep all sides talking, despite statements from both sides that seem to make any agreement impossible.

However, Abbas said in Ramallah on Wednesday that there may be talks but not any negotiations, adding that he is “determined to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital,” without letting Israel exercise sovereignty over any land that was restored to the Jewish State in 1967.

Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated Tuesday that Israel will not give up sovereignty over Jerusalem and will not stop all construction. PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, in an interview with the London Times, said that the PA will be a de facto state within two years, regardless of Israel’s position.

Both he and Abbas have refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a condition that Prime Minister Netanyahu has said is a necessity for an agreement.

Following the four-hour meeting in London, Prime Minister Netanyahu boarded a plane for Germany for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, set for Thursday.