US, Israel Meeting Secretly for Way Forward on Peace
Israel and US talking quietly about way forward on negotiations with Palestinians.
Israeli media is reporting that the United States and Israel have been holding secret negotiations recently in an effort to find common ground on the peace process. The goal is to allow the two countries to overcome an impasse over the US’s insistence that Israel refrain from building in East Jerusalem for four months and a disagreement over the exact nature of negotiations with the Palestinians.
A senior Obama administration official told Haaretz that Dan Shapiro, a White House Middle East policy expert, landed in Israel yesterday for a secret visit. Alongside Shaprio was the Israel-based David Hale, US Middle East envoy George Mitchell’s deputy.
The two men spoke at length at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem office with Netanyahu envoy Yitzhak Mocho and advisor Ron Dermer.
The secret meeting will supposedly resume today, with no official confirmation by the White House or Netanyahu’s office that the discussions are even being held. Official channels are silent on the matter and the Prime Minister’s office will not release a statement supporting or denying the meeting.
A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that secret discussions with American officials have been ongoing for the past week. These have taken the form of phone conversations with the Israeli embassy in Washington DC as well as with the White House members who arrived yesterday. The official reiterated that Israel will not respond officially to the US’s demands, either by statement or verbally. That said, the two countries will be working to come to an unofficial agreement on how best to resume negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
The official described Netanyahu’s position at the moment as being insistent that Israel will not bend to the US’s demand that Israel halt construction in East Jerusalem. It is widely thought that, instead, the Prime Minister will promise to stay away from actions that could cause tensions to flare, such as building houses for Jews in the Arab areas of East Jerusalem.