debkafile's Washington sources report that the US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell presented Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu Friday, April 23, with a compromise by the Obama administration on Jerusalem. Instead of a freeze on all Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, Israel is now asked to quietly suspend all building licenses and other permits for just four weeks, to give Mitchell a chance to persuade the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to accept US-moderated proximity talks.
The White House came forward with this concession, those sources said, to help clear the air in the president's relations with the Israeli prime minister.
Yet Mitchell ends yet another mission to Jerusalem and Ramallah Sunday, April 25, without breaking new ground. Our Washington and Jerusalem sources report that, notwithstanding the Israel government spokesman's denial, the prime minister did in fact submit to Abbas a secret offer to agree on temporary borders for a Palestinian state on 60 percent of the West Bank. Hoping the offer would go far toward melting the Palestinian leader's resistance to negotiations, Mitchell returned to the Middle East for yet another bid to get them moving.
In the event, Abbas turned the offer down because it came directly from the prime minister – not through the Americans and minus US guarantees. He appealed directly to President Barack Obama to "impose" a solution on the Middle east conflict.
Speaking to members of his Fatah party, he said: “Mr President and members of the American administration, since you believe in this [an independent Palestinian state], it is your duty to take steps toward a solution and to impose this solution."
The flood of pro-Israeli rhetoric from administration officials in the last few days and its willingness to yield partially on Jerusalem is not taken by most American Jewish leaders as a true change of Barack Obama's Middle East policy but rather a PR campaign. Saturday night, April 24, some of them warned that the White House feels the need to ease the crisis marring the atmosphere in its relations with Jerusalem and American Jews without, however, revising its fundamental Middle East policy, which is intrinsically detrimental to Israel.
Some high-placed official sources are also critical of Netanyahu's approach to America's drive for peace talks with the Palestinians. They complain the Israel prime minister insists that every issue is cleared with him in person and holds his closest aides, including his national security adviser Uzi Arad, back from efforts to seek out common ground with their American counterparts.
US officials are aware that defense minister Ehud Barak, who arrives in Washington Sunday for eight days of talks with top American officials, will not be speaking for the prime minister and has not been authorized by him to hold discussions with the Obama administration.