Mitchell returns to Middle East

US envoy visits Jerusalem but neither Israelis nor Palestinians expect much progress.

    George Mitchell is on his sixth official visit
    to Israel [AFP

    His visit comes days after Israel deployed thousands of police and soldiers into occupied East Jerusalem following clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settler activists around the al-Aqsa mosque compound.

    On his last visit to the region, Mitchell got Netanyahu and Abbas to agree to a three-way summit with Obama on the sidelines of the UN General  Assembly.

    Pressure on Abbas

    But US pressure has had undesired effects, according to Palestian political analysts. They say the summit in September weakened Abbas and his ability to make concessions.

    "The credibility of the Palestinian president, as it relates to  the negotiations, among the people and even within [Abbas's] Fatah movement, has today become very shaky," said Samih Shabib, a Fatah official.

    The Palestinian president has also come under widespread Arab criticism for apparently submitting to US and Israeli pressure by not pressing for a vote at the UN Human Rights Council on a damning UN report on the Gaza war.

    Palestinians have also been critical of the United States for not pushing Israel to accept a building freeze of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which the  Palestinians are demanding ahead of a resumption of talks.

    "I don't expect any change. The Palestinians are the weakest  party in the talks and the Obama administration during the past week has made it clear it is done putting pressure on Israel and is now  going to apply the pressure on the Palestinians," said Ziad Abu Zayyad, a former Palestinian legislator.

    Mitchell weakened?

    Netanyahu, on the other hand, has apparently been emboldened by his success in parrying Obama's demands for a settlement freeze.

    "Mitchell has a lot of problems because we now know that you can say no to a US president and still survive," said Eytan Gilboa and expert on Israel-US relations from the right-leaning Bar Ilan University.

    "There is a direct connection to the strength of the president  and the strength of his personal envoy. Mitchell had a lot more  power three months ago."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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