Gur Salomon
December 15, 2010 - 1:00am

As U.S. special Mideast envoy George Mitchell renewed his peace brokering efforts in the Middle East, Israel on Tuesday expressed its willingness to discuss core issues with the Palestinians while stopped short of settlement building freeze.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met Mitchell Monday evening, said Tuesday at a domestic conference that the two persons "spoke about ways to advance the peace process" and added that the meeting was "very good."

The U.S. envoy returned to the region for the first time since his last visit on Sept. 15. Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) broke down less than two weeks later over Israel's refusal to extend a self-imposed 10- month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank that ended on Sept. 26.

Terming Mitchell's return as "to establish a new path" for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the premier on Monday told Mitchell that he is prepared to discuss core issues necessary for reviving the stalled negotiations with the Palestinians, according to local media.

Addressing a business conference in Tel Aviv just hours before meeting with Mitchell, Netanyahu praised the U.S. administration's decision to drop its demand for extending the freeze on West Bank settlement construction.

"The decision is good for Israel and good for peace," Netanyahu told attendees at the conference, adding that he hoped to "narrow the gaps" in positions between Israel and the PNA.


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