The Israeli prime minister met with US envoy George Mitchell today to shore up an Israeli-Palestinian peace process undermined by his foreign minister yesterday.
US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem today, seeking to shore up a recently renewed, but already flagging, round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday that the talks would be called off in about a week if Israel doesn't extend a settlement freeze – a move the US had demanded as a confidence-building measure but now appears to be backing away from.
But even as Mitchell scrambled in Jerusalem, comments from Mr. Netanyahu's gadfly Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman laid bare stark disagreements within the Israeli elite. Such disagreement call into question the feasibility of President Barack Obama's one-year timeline for a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace deal.
Speaking at the UN on Tuesday, Mr. Lieberman – who leads the second-largest party in Netanyahu's coalition government – said a peace deal could take decades.
He also proposed a land swap in which predominantly Arab areas inside Israel could be incorporated into a future Palestinian state in exchange for the Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank – a proposal sharply at odds with Netanyahu's stated approach. The proposal received a predictably outraged response from Palestinian leaders.