A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
April 16, 2009--Mitchell in Israel
The Passover holiday ended and so ended the Netanyahu government’s brief period of grace. Today, President Obama’s special envoy for the Arab-Israeli conflict, Senator George Mitchell, arrived in Israel for meeting with the new government. His first meeting, characterized as somewhat tense, was with Foreign Minister Lieberman. Lieberman is said to have stated it’s necessary to start over. In Lieberman's opinion, the current approach, the approach supported by the Obama administration, has not worked. Mitchell was not happy hearing Lieberman's assertions. After the meeting Mitchell publicly stated that the Obama Administration is committed to the two-State solution. Mitchell then met with opposition leader Tzpi Livni. In contrast, the Mitchell-Livni meeting was characterized as warm and friendly. After that meeting Mitchell was more explicit regarding America's commitment to two state solution. Mitchell then met with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Netanyahu raised a new demand in his meeting with Mitchell. Netanyahu stated that before Israel will discuss the possibilities for a Palestinian state; the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish character of the state of Israel. This is a demand that has never been raised before in any negotiations. Observers believe this is mainly an attempt by Netanyahu to delay any negotiations.
Netanyahu is trying to convince the Obama administration that before issues relating to the Palestinians can be addressed, Iran’s nuclear program needs to be stopped; along with it’s interference in Lebanon and other places. The Obama administration, however, believes it will be harder to address the Iranian problem if progress is not made on the Palestinian front. Netanyahu and the Likud are said to be aware he will have not choice but to make some concessions to the US. There is, therefore, talk of Netanyahu removing some of the illegal settlements as a concession to the Americans. Beyond all this, of course, is the fact that as much as America would like to make progress in the Middle East, it is currently most worried about events in the other part of the Muslim world... the possible total unraveling of Pakistan.