Mitchell meets Netanyahu without guidelines because Obama’s Middle East Review is not ready

debkafile‘s Middle East and Washington sources do not expect anything much to come of the conversation Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Middle East envoy George Mitchell hold in London Wednesday, Aug. 28 – although the two governments are close to accord on a settlement standstill.
This is because US president Barack Obama went off on a holiday before his staff had finished the Middle East policy review he ordered. Therefore, although the US. State Department said Monday that its Middle East envoys are approaching an agreement on renewing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Envoy Mitchell was left without guidelines on the final goals for resumed Israel-Palestinian talks.
All that is known for sure is that Obama plans some move relating to those talks at the UN General Assembly session beginning September. But three weeks before the event, the nature of that step is still a mystery.
Our Washington sources sketch three possibilities:
1. The US president will lay down parameters for Israel and the Palestinians to follow when they go back to negotiations. In other words, Obama will dictate in advance the lines the negotiators must follow as well as their final outcome. In plain language, this adds up to an imposed resolution of the 60-year old conflict.
This course of action is favored by some of the White House staff and advocated by the former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who Obama likes to consult; or
2. Obama will deliver a grand proclamation on the desirability of peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the Arab world; or
3. He will stage a symbolic summit of a few hours between Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, at which they will declare peace negotiations are resumed.
Mitchell favors the third option because he believes it will serve as a good opening for the negotiations to go forward in stages. Each stage would tackle a single point at issue, with the US offering a formula for bridging differences. In the envoy’s view, the Israelis and Palestinians would more easily handle the medicine prescribed them by Washington if administered in small doses rather than all in one go.
debkafile‘s sources stress that none of the three options has one word to say about the Arab nations whose contribution to the Israel-Arab peace equation the US president defined in his June 4 Cairo speech as a key factor. Obama was forced to forego this element when he failed to find a single important Arab government prepared to make even a token gesture for improving relations with Israel.
The Israeli prime minister deliberately stepped into this vacuum when he remarked in London Monday, Aug. 25, that Israeli concessions for limiting construction on the West Bank must be matched first by confidence-building steps toward Israel by Saudi Arabia.
The response of US source to this remark was that Netanyahu knows perfectly well that King Abdullah has flatly refused to make any such gestures. By standing by this demand, the Israeli prime minister is saying that even if he and Mitchell were to come to terms on a draft accord, it will not materialize until the Saudis and other Arab nations come forward with reciprocal steps. In other words, President Obama’s Middle East program would be stuck in the mud.
Our sources report that Obama’s departure for Martha’s Vineyard left other weightier issues than the Middle East pending, such as Afghanistan and Iran.

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