Mitchell shuttles between J'lem and Ramallah

US special ME envoy meets with Netanyahu amid speculation that declaration is imminent.

mitchell and netanyahu 248.88 (photo credit: )
mitchell and netanyahu 248.88
(photo credit: )
US special envoy George Mitchell will continue his "shuttle diplomacy" on Wednesday, meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the second time in two days, just hours after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The fact that Mitchell met with Netanyahu on Tuesday morning, went to Abbas in Ramallah in the afternoon and will meet again on Wednesday morning with Netanyahu in Jerusalem left the impression that he was shuttling questions and answers back and forth. Mitchell read a laconic statement after meeting with Abbas, saying their talks had been constructive and expressing hope that the negotiations would move forward in the coming weeks. The US envoy was expected to return to Washington after his meeting with the prime minister on Wednesday morning, and is not scheduled to go to any other countries in the region. Netanyahu, meanwhile, held a meeting of the inner cabinet late Tuesday night to discuss his talks with Mitchell. It was the first inner cabinet meeting to be attended by Shas chairman Eli Yishai, who joined Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and ministers Dan Meridor, Moshe Ya'alon and Bennie Begin. Mitchell and Netanyahu met one-on-one in the morning for more than two hours, in a meeting characterized as "good" by the Prime Minister's Office. They last met about three weeks ago in London. Diplomatic officials expressed "cautious optimism," following the talks, that agreement could be reached on a package that would enable a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that were halted after Netanyahu's election in February. Abbas has said repeatedly he would not negotiate again until there was a complete settlement freeze, something Netanyahu has declared he would not do. Still, the officials pointedly refrained from saying where or in what framework there would be an announcement of new negotiations, as well as whether a much-discussed tripartite meeting among Netanyahu, Abbas and US President Barack Obama would take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next week.