U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is scheduled to arrive in Israel and meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday, the eve of the Prime Minister’s departure for the United States.
Mitchell packed his luggage with unprecedented stands by the European Union and U.S. President Barack Obama against a Jewish presence in parts of Jerusalem that were restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.
The Quartet – comprised of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union – has called on Israel to freeze all building for Jews in areas that the Palestinian Authority wants as part of a new Arab state. Both the Quartet and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have “condemned” Israel for continuing with a housing project in the totally Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.
During the Bush administration, the Quartet avoided the issue of housing for Jews in areas of reunited Jerusalem but now has pointed out that the international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty in the area, which is home to 300,000 Jews.
Mitchell welcomed the “strong and clear statement” from the Quartet meeting in Moscow and received additional support with a phone call by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Prime Minister Netanyahu two days ago.
Elliott Abrams, who was deputy national security adviser to former President George W. Bush, noted while Clinton used the word “condemn” to censure Israel for its recent zoning faux pas, “the Quartet only used that word for murders and terrorism.”
Mitchell is continuing to ride the track of “mediated talks” between the PA and Israel, a move that takes diplomacy backwards by 20 years, from before President Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem, Dan Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, told the Washington Post. His comment is significant in that Kurtzer was one of President Obama’s advisors in his campaign and is against a Jewish presence in most of Judea and Samaria.
Secretary Clinton has claimed that the discussions will start with "substantive matters on the core issues that divide the Israelis and the Palestinians,” but Kurtzer criticized the Obama administration for not setting out any starting points for the mediated talks.
Former peace negotiator Aaron David Miller also was negative on the Obama administration, criticizing it for reacting to events instead of setting forth a consistent policy.
Abrams was even more negative, telling the Post that Clinton’s statements harsh statements against Prime Minister Netanyahu have “made life harder and has made negotiations harder for the Israelis and the Palestinians."
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who represents the right-wing branch of Netanyahu’s coalition government, ruled out any unilateral “territorial concessions" to the PA. He told Der Spiegel that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a "battle of cultures that cannot be resolved by territorial concessions.”
"Jerusalem is not negotiable," he said.