Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US envoy George Mitchell failed to agree on a settlement freeze Tuesday, saying they would meet again Wednesday.
Amid rising anticipation of a US-Israeli agreement on a settlement freeze, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US envoy George Mitchell said they would meet again Wednesday after an inconclusive visit Tuesday in Jerusalem.
With one week until the United Nations General Assembly opens in New York, the contested issue has taken on new urgency. President Barack Obama, whose administration has strongly encouraged a settlement freeze as a way to jumpstart Arab-Israeli peace talks, seeks to meet Mr. Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the UN gathering. But Mr. Abbas has refused to resume negotiations before Israel agrees to a total freeze.
Netanyahu, under pressure from his right-wing constituents not to succumb to Washington's demands, last week approved permits for 455 new housing units to be built in the settlements – bringing to nearly 3,000 the number of homes his government would likely exclude from any settlement freeze.
Originally encouraged by the government after Israel expanded its territory in the 1967 war with its Arab neighbors, settlements were meant to seed Israeli "pioneers" and to extend the Jewish state's defenses. Now numbering 121, their purpose and legality draw varying definitions and fuel relentless debate.
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