Mitchell back to region as Israel rejects Jerusalem freeze demand
U.S. President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy is expected to arrive Thursday in the region to try bring Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, a Palestinian official said on Thursday. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was told by an American official that George Mitchell would be "arriving in the coming hours", senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted as saying by Reuters.
"We hope he will have the right formula for resuming proximity talks by having Israel stop settlement activities," Erekat said.
Meanwhile, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the U.S. administration's demands to freeze construction in East Jerusalem, his bureau confirmed on Thursday. The Bureau was responding to a Wall Street Journal report that Netanyahu's government had delivered over the weekend its most substantive response yet to that U.S. request.
According to the report, Netanyahu agreed to a number of measures demanded by the Obama administration, including the release of some Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel, an ease on Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip and efforts toward improving Palestinian movement in the West Bank.