Mitchell leaves Israel empty-handed; three-way meeting in New York?
U.S. Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell left Israel without a deal in place to freeze Jewish settlements, but sources close to the discussions tell The Cable that a three-way meeting between Obama, Netanyahu, and Abbas could still happen on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, although the meeting wouldn’t necessarily launch negotiations. "The Israelis ...
U.S. Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell left Israel without a deal in place to freeze Jewish settlements, but sources close to the discussions tell The Cable that a three-way meeting between Obama, Netanyahu, and Abbas could still happen on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, although the meeting wouldn't necessarily launch negotiations.
U.S. Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell left Israel without a deal in place to freeze Jewish settlements, but sources close to the discussions tell The Cable that a three-way meeting between Obama, Netanyahu, and Abbas could still happen on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, although the meeting wouldn’t necessarily launch negotiations.
"The Israelis and the United States are close to a deal and are agreed in principle on the broad strokes, but Israel’s piece is contingent on similar gestures from the Palestinians and the Arabs. And the Palestinians are refusing to deal," is how one source characterized the current state of play.
The drive to blame the Palestinians is already underway, with some saying that the administration let them off the hook by not requiring any confidence-building measures up front.
Nonetheless, the U.S. and Israeli sides are still willing to hold the three-way meeting in New York if the Palestinians are willing to abandon the idea that the meeting represents a launching of negotiations, the source said.
The New York Times basically confirmed the substance of the source’s readout, reporting:
The Netanyahu aide said that the gaps involved not only what Israel could give – a settlement freeze and agreeing that a two-state solution would be based on certain borders – but also what Arab states would give in return as confidence building measures. Israel is hoping for trade missions and flight rights over Arab countries that do not now have diplomatic relations with it.
One Middle East hand wrote in to add a cautionary note.
"The stuff about Israel and the United States being close to a deal on settlements is only partly accurate," said the expert, "Israel has been poking the U.S. in the eye on this for about 10 weeks, so any ‘deal’ the U.S. may do may simply not be sellable as a settlement freeze."
Aaron David Miller, a Wilson Center scholar and former U.S. Middle East peace negotiator, was pessimistic that any real progress was in the offing.
"They’ll get their trilateral meeting out of politeness to Obama, but somebody needs to point out that an agreement with Israelis, even to restrict settlements for a finite amount of time, has never happened before," he said.
If and when they get to actual negotiations, the gaps on fraught issues such as Jerusalem will be galactic, Miller continued. "When the crisis arrives, and it will, what does the administration do then?"
"The administration broke a lot of crockery with the Israelis and proved they couldn’t leverage anything," said Miller, "It makes America looks weak."
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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