President Obama’s Special Envoy on the Middle East has arrived in Israel today, and met right off with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Tomorrow, Thursday, Mitchell with meet with the new Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and other members of his government, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. On Friday, Mitchell will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Palestinian Presidential Headquarters, the Muqata’a, in Ramallah, and he will apparently then meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, before flying out of Ben Gurion Airport to his next stop.
Today, there was this exchange between the U.S. State Department Spokesperson, and journalists in Washington:
“QUESTION: Senator Mitchell, any more details on his trip for the Gulf? And what’s his position and what’s the Administration’s position on the Saudi peace initiative?
MR. WOOD: You mean the Arab peace initiative?
QUESTION: Yeah, that was sponsored by Saudi Arabia in 2002.
MR. WOOD: Yeah, yeah, I don’t have any update on it. I mean, we still think that it has utility and – but I don’t have any update beyond what we’ve said before” …
This exchange continued:
“QUESTION: Will it be mentioned to the Netanyahu government?
MR. WOOD: There will be a number of issues that Senator Mitchell will be raising with the Israeli Government with regard to the peace process, so I certainly think that’s something that – I would be surprised if it didn’t come up. I don’t have anything beyond what I said yesterday in terms of his travel here. And yes, this is what I gave you yesterday. No update. Sorry”.
This is just a little offhanded. Perhaps Mitchell will have more intensity…
The Israeli press is reporting that, after this trip, Mitchell will return approximately every three weeks, and will open an office in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli officials do not expect any confrontation with the when Middle East envoy George Mitchell has his first meetings with Binyamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister. The JPost article stated that “neither the new Obama administration nor the Netanyahu government has completed its respective policy review. The prevailing sense in Jerusalem, the Post has learned, is that the Obama polices do not differ too greatly from those of the former Bush administration when it comes to the Middle East, regarding neither a two-state solution nor the settlements” And, the article said, Netanyahu is expected to put together his own initiative, which he will present on his first visit in office to Washington in May.