Mitchell, Netanyahu meet on proximity talks


JERUSALEM (JTA) — U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell met in Jerusalem with Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the start of proximity talks.

Mitchell and the Israeli prime minister met for three hours on Wednesday afternoon. Netanyahu had said he was ready to launch the talks at the meeting. The two are scheduled to meet again Thursday.

Mitchell is scheduled to meet Friday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but talks are not likely to start before at least Saturday, when the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee is set to meet to approve the talks. Abbas was meeting Wednesday in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Netanyahu met with Mubarak on Monday, when he reportedly updated the president on the status of the peace process.

Israel’s deputy prime minister, Dan Meridor, told the Jerusalem Post in an article published Wednesday that indirect talks will fail. 

"Everyone will want to pull America to their own side, and they won’t get closer, they will get further apart," Meridor, also the minister of intelligence, told the newspaper. "I think we need to go quickly to direct talks."

Abbas put the start of the indirect peace negotiations in doubt on Tuesday after a West Bank mosque was burned down in a fire that Palestinian officials blamed on residents of neighboring Jewish settlements. Israeli police said the fire was caused by an electrical short.

"This criminal attack threatens efforts to revive the peace process," Abbas said.

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