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Netanyahu defiant on Israeli settlements ahead of Mitchell meeting

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Bernat Armangue/AP

(Read caption) Construction of a new housing development takes place in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim, on Sept. 6. A key meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell to negotiate a freeze on Israeli settlements was postponed on Monday.

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JERUSALEM – A key meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell to negotiate a freeze on Israeli settlements was postponed on Monday. The two men were instead to attend the funeral of a young fighter pilot who had aspired to fill the shoes of his father, Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut and a national hero who was killed in the Columbia space shuttle crash in 2003.

The career of Assaf Ramon, a 21-year-old enlisted soldier, has been followed closely in Israel. His death in a F-16 fighter jet crash during training exercises on Sunday has captured the empathy of the Israeli people, pushing front-page attention away from Mr. Mitchell, a former senator and veteran peacemaker.

A large part of Mitchell’s latest mission here has been to get Mr. Netanyahu to agree to a settlement freeze, which has been the most visible sticking point in Washington’s attempts to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders together to restart peace negotiations.

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