The Cable

Middle East update

The NSC’s senior director for the Middle East and North Africa Dan Shapiro, back from accompanying U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell to London for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, briefed European diplomats in Washington on the status of the talks Thursday, The Cable learned from diplomatic sources.  The upshot was that more talks are needed, ...

The NSC’s senior director for the Middle East and North Africa Dan Shapiro, back from accompanying U.S. peace envoy George Mitchell to London for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, briefed European diplomats in Washington on the status of the talks Thursday, The Cable learned from diplomatic sources. 

The upshot was that more talks are needed, and there is apparently still not a small amount to continue talking about, as the Mitchell and Netanyahu teams try to work out apparently remaining differences over specific exceptions to a total West Bank settlement freeze and in particular the issue of East Jerusalem. Netanyahu has tried to argue in more public venues that Jerusalem should not be considered as part of the settlement issue. Privately, a Middle East hand earlier told The Cable, what Netanyahu may be arguing for with the Americans may have more to do with optics, e.g. whether he can privately agree to refrain from further Jewish construction or Palestinian evictions in East Jerusalem, but not have it be formally announced as part of a public deal.

U.S. officials have declined to discuss specific issues involved in the talks. Shapiro declined to comment.

Separately, a Middle East hand said that the Obama White House told the Mitchell team earlier in August to ‘get it done already,’ referring to overcoming the obstacles to getting to a new round of peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Netanyahu is due to send advisors Yitzhak Molcho and Mickey Herzog to meet with Mitchell and his team in the U.S. next week, although it’s still being worked out whether the meetings will take place in Washington, New York, or Maine, which Mitchell represented as a Senator.

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