The Obama administration has agreed to Israel’s request to remove East Jerusalem from negotiations on the impending settlement freeze.
According to both Israeli officials and Western diplomats, U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell has recognized the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot announce a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem. The officials said the U.S. will not endorse new construction there, but would not demand Jerusalem publicly announce a freeze.
Responding to Palestinian reports that Abbas had expressed willingness to meet with him at next month’s UN General Assembly session in New York, Netanyahu said that if Abbas “is behind this declaration, that would be progress. This is a positive thing, a positive first step.”
Until now, Abbas has refused to meet with him unless he first imposes a total freeze on settlement construction.
Netanyahu said he is willing to discuss all the well-known final-status issues, such as Jerusalem, borders and the refugees, but also intends to raise issues of his own – primarily the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state and that any agreement explicitly declare the conflict over and bar any further claims.
“We also have core issues, and the issue of recognition is core, in my view,” he said. “If we insist on the recognition, there will be a peace agreement.”