On the day US envoy George Mitchell arrived to once more push Israel and the
Palestinians toward direct talks, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas’s Fatah movement called on Abbas on Thursday to resist US and Israeli
pressure to start direct negotiations.
“The lack of credibility and
confidence resulting from the Israeli rejection of the indirect talks, which
have achieved no progress, will become entrenched as ‘givens and facts’ if there
is a transition to direct talks,” AFP reported Fatah as saying in a
“That is something the Palestinian leadership has not and will
not accept,” read the statement, illustrating the domestic pressure
under to not renew talks with Israel before Jerusalem freezes all Jewish
construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu has given no indication that he would accede to the
to extend the 10- month settlement construction moratorium and expand it
include building in Jerusalem. He is under pressure from within his own
Party to renew building in the settlements once the freeze expires on
Mitchell arrived on Thursday afternoon and went immediately to talks
with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
He is scheduled to meet with Abbas on
On Friday morning, and again on Sunday morning, after meeting
the PA president, Mitchell is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu. He is
set to go
to Cairo on Sunday for a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak,
day Netanyahu is also scheduled to go meet with the Egyptian leader.
related development, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose
the Egyptians has been strained since he publicly insulted Mubarak a
years ago, spoke on Thursday with Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar
thanked him for Cairo’s cooperation in finding a resolution to the
ship that set sail from Greece last Saturday night for Gaza City.
days of uncertainty and feverish diplomatic activity, the ship docked on
Wednesday evening in El- Arish, in Sinai, rather than in the Gaza Strip.
Egyptian authorities – who were in constant contact with Israel – gave
permission for the ship to unload its cargo there, where it will be
then transferred overland to the Strip.
Lieberman said the Egyptian
cooperation enabled the entire episode to pass without the need for the
According to a statement put out by Lieberman’s office, the
foreign minister – not generally on Suleiman’s itinerary when he visits
updated Suleiman on Israel’s new polices toward Gaza. The statement said
would meet during the Egyptian’s next visit to Israel.
meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is scheduled to
the region, and on Sunday she is slated to visit the Gaza Strip. This
the highest-level visit to Gaza by a Western diplomat since Israel
eased the overland blockade and lifted numerous restrictions on what is
into the area.
Following her visit to Gaza, Ashton will go to Sderot. She
will meet with Netanyahu and Lieberman in Jerusalem later in the
Ashton is expected during her meetings to discuss the possibility of
an EU role at the Gaza crossings to expedite the transfer of
Later in the month, the foreign ministers of Italy, Germany,
France, Spain and Britain are expected to go to Gaza. Lieberman invited
last month, altering Israel’s policy of the last several years of – with
exceptions – not letting foreign politicians go into Gaza from Israel,
so as not
to bestow legitimacy on Hamas.
Neither Ashton nor the EU foreign
ministers will meet Hamas officials.