London hosts Netanyahu-Mitchell meeting

Netanyahu meets US envoy George Mitchell in London
Netanyahu meets US envoy George Mitchell in London

By Alex Stevenson

Middle Eastern peace hopes are focused on London today as Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets US envoy George Mitchell.

The pair will hold talks in a hotel somewhere in the capital on the extent to which Israel is prepared to halt its settlements in the West Bank.

Media reports have suggested Mr Mitchell may be close to making a deal with Israel on freezing construction of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory, which has been under occupation since 1967.

Barack Obama's administration wants a complete halt, but Mr Netanyahu faces significant political pressure from within his right-wing Cabinet to resist the international community's demands.

Yesterday he ruled out halting construction of new Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as their capital.

Analysis: Building on nothing

In a joint press conference with Gordon Brown, whom he met for talks on Tuesday, the Israeli prime minister said: "We're working hard to advance a peace process that will lead to an actual peace result and we hope to move forward in the weeks and months ahead. We are not weak. We have already moved."

He cited the removal of roadblocks to economic activity in the West Bank and his historic acceptance of the need for a demilitarised Palestinian state as evidence of this.

The international community believes these measures do not go far enough, however. There are 2,500 new Israeli units currently under construction in the West Bank which observers say undermines Israeli pledges.

"I hope we can achieve progress that may confound the cynics and surprise the world," Mr Netanyahu said yesterday.


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