Roee Nahmias
January 27, 2010 - 1:00am,7340,L-3840256,00.html

US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell has offered to shuttle between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger did in the 1970s while mediating in the peace talks between Israel and Egypt, a the London-based Arabic-language al-Hayat newspaper reported Wednesday, quoting a senior Palestinian official.

According to the Palestinian source, Mitchell suggested to the parties that his trips would also include Syria and Lebanon and that he would hold discussions on a possible regional peace agreement.

The proposal was made in response to a Palestinian request that the Americans represent the Palestinians in the negotiations until a settlement is reached.

According to the al-Hayat report, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas presented the offer to Mitchell in the last round of talks as an alternative to direct negotiations with Israel, as such talks – while the settlement construction continues – weaken the Palestinian stand.

According to Palestinian officials, the proposal was aimed at shifting the ball to the American court, which persists in its demand to resume negotiations without any preconditions. A senior Palestinian source said that "this way, Washington will see which side is torpedoing the negotiations."

The Reuters news agency reported Monday that Abbas was studying a US proposal for talks between the Palestinians and Israel at a level below full-scale negotiations between their leaders.

Palestinian sources familiar with Mitchell's weekend round of diplomacy said he had proposed confidence-building measures that would improve conditions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian officials added, however, that the main bone of contention preventing the parties from resuming the negotiations was the ongoing Israeli settlement construction.

Yaser Abed Rabbo, the secretary-general of the PLO's Executive Committee, clarified that the construction freeze declared by Israel was not enough, saying that the Israeli insistence on this matter was preventing a return to the negotiation table.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017