Mitchell: US peace push misinterpreted

Tells 'NY Times' it's not all about settlements, denies Arab states have rebuffed gestures request.

netanyahu and mitchell 248.88 (photo credit: )
netanyahu and mitchell 248.88
(photo credit: )
US Mideast envoy George Mitchell believes people are misinterpreting the Obama administration's pressure on Israel as well as the Arab response to Washington's regional peace push. "One of the public misimpressions is that it's all been about settlements," Mitchell told the New York Times in an interview published Sunday. "It is completely inaccurate to portray this as, 'We're only asking the Israelis to do things.' We are asking everybody to do things." Despite Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal's recent rejection of American calls for gestures toward Israel, Mitchell said that Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, had not actually rebuffed US President Barack Obama's request. "We've gotten, over all, a very good response, a desire to act, some public statements to that effect from the crown prince of Bahrain, the president of Egypt," said Mitchell. Even the Saudis, he said, "want to be helpful. They, like everyone we're talking to, want a peace agreement that will lay the foundation for the end of this conflict. I truly believe that's what they want." He went on to say that even if Obama manages to reach an agreement with Israel to freeze settlement construction, the deal would likely not be one that "everyone is going to stand up and cheer about." "The question is, 'Will it be substantial? Will it be meaningful? Will it enable us to achieve what is, after all, the overall objective?'" Mitchell told the New York Times. "The phase we're now engaged in is a means to an end; it is not an end in itself. The end is getting a peace agreement." Repeating comments he made on his trip to Israel last week, the US envoy said, "These are discussions among friends, not disputes among adversaries."