Mitchell and PA negotiator Erakat
Mitchell and PA negotiator ErakatIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The Palestinian Authority will resume negotiations with Israel for the establishment of a new Arab state, according to U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell. Earlier this week the PA called on the world to shun Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

“We hope to conclude the discussions in which we are now engaged very soon. To me, it's a matter of weeks, not many months,” Mitchell told reporters in his first news conference since taking on the job of overseeing talks between the PA and Israel.

He said that European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana “may be right" by stating Sunday that the resumption in talks may come as early as next month.

Mitchell ignored a massive Arab condemnation of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s conditions for a PA state and expressed optimism that conditions presented by the PA and Israel are negotiable. Most of the Prime Minister’s terms already have been stated by previous governments or are written in the American Roadmap plan.

However, a senior PA leader called Netanyahu a “liar,” and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said the speech threw obstacles in the way of further talks. Mitchell said Israel’s demand that a new PA state be demilitarized is “reconcilable” but did not refer to the government’s insistence that Abbas recognize Israel as a “Jewish” state.

At the news conference, the former Senate majority leader reiterated calls that Israel stop building for Jews in Judea and Samaria and that the PA prove responsibility for combating terror and stopping incitement against Israel.

"We are also asking the Arab countries to take meaningful steps toward peace and normalization," he said. So far, the Arab world has hardened its stance since Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, with warnings that time is running out for Israel to accept the 2002 Saudi Arabia Peace Plan without compromises or face the possibility of a new war.