a senior political source in Jerusalem told Haaretz Sunday that the U.S. has informed Israel that it is interested in assuming the role of “active mediator” during the talks, and “have a place at the negotiating table.”
Netanyahu told the cabinet during its weekly session Sunday that his meeting with Mitchell in London is not expected to be the final one, and stressed that more meetings will be necessary before peace talks can begin. “The discussions with Mitchell are just the beginning of a series of talks and exchanges that have been going on intensively recently, and in good spirits,” the prime minister said.
“There has been some progress, even though there is no absolute agreement. There is an attempt to minimize the degree of disagreement and discuss matters in a much more positive atmosphere. There is a wish to hold direct talks between us and the Palestinians, even though this depends on the understandings with the Americans and the Palestinians,” Netanyahu told his cabinet colleagues.
In the Forum of Six, the group of senior ministers in which sensitive political-security issues are discussed, there is unusually vocal opposition, and some of the participants are even urging Netanyahu onward toward progress on the diplomatic front.
The “doves” in the forum comprise Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Dan Meridor. Barak is keen to see progress on a regional settlement in line with U.S. plans. Barak supports a temporary freeze of settlement construction, in return for steps toward normalization of ties with the Arab world. Meridor is also keen to see the tension in Israel-U.S. ties pass by, and for the resumption of negotiations on a peace plan for the Middle East.
The most “hawkish” member of the forum, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, is for the time being giving Netanyahu plenty of leeway.
The other two hawks, Moshe Ya’alon and Benny Begin, are opposed to the resumption of negotiations, but both are keeping a relatively low profile as far as their public criticism of the prime minister is concerned.