Washington's special envoy to the Mideast, tasked with jump-starting flagging peace talks, will huddle Thursday with Binyamin Netanyahu, a vocal opponent of the negotiations, for the first time since he was designated to lead Israel's next government.
The Obama administration has dispatched George Mitchell to the region for the second time in its first month, an indication of the new US president's determination to press a resolution of the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Hillary Clinton is due in the area next week on her first trip since being appointed the new US secretary of state.
Mitchell hopes to re-energize stalled talks, over the objections of Netanyahu, who thinks the latest round of US-backed negotiations was a waste of time and wants to promote Palestinian prosperity instead of Palestinian statehood.
The Palestinians reject Netanyahu's approach and want Israel to halt settlement construction in the West Bank. On that point, the Palestinians are in accord with Mitchell, who, as head of an international commission to investigate violence in the Middle East, urged Israel back in 2001 to freeze settlement expansion. He also called on Palestinians to rein in gunmen.
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