Sunday, January 25, 2009
US envoy worries settlers
Settler leader says Mitchell's appointment 'disturbing'; envoy to visit Israel next week
The appointment of US Mideast Envoy George Mitchell is "very disturbing," Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan told Ynet Saturday evening.
"Soon we will need to get Obama's request to have children," Dayan said, alluding to Mitchell's previously voiced objection to allowing natural growth in West Bank settlements. "In the past, Mitchell made an indecent comparison between the war on terror and the settlements," the Yesha leader said. "Right now it's important for us to have a government that will stand up for our interests."
However, for the time being the Yesha Council does not intend to engage in an all-out clash with the returning US envoy, officials said. The settler group will weigh its actions following the upcoming Knesset elections.
Mitchell to arrive next week
Mitchell is expected to arrive in the region next week, bringing a quick start to the new administration's efforts for Israeli-Palestinian peace. He will be arriving in Israel Wednesday and is expected to meet with the prime minister, foreign minister, and other senior officials in Jerusalem.
The US envoy is also expected to meet with the Palestinian president and prime minister, while attempting to stabilize the ceasefire vis-à-vis Hamas and restart the diplomatic process. However, the State Department has not yet confirmed Mitchell's schedule.
Earlier Saturday, Western diplomats told Reuters that Mitchell would try to shore up a shaky ceasefire in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas. They said Mitchell was expected to make stops in Israel and the West Bank.
During his recent speech to the US State Department, Mitchell said that "people create conflict and people can end conflict. I've seen it happen in Ireland."
Mitchell, 75, will return to a role he pursued during President Bill Clinton's presidency when the former senator took on several difficult diplomatic assignments, including chairing peace talks on Northern Ireland.
Referring to Mitchell's appointment as special Mideast envoy, US President Barack Obama said "We have no time to lose."
"It will be the policy of my administration to actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel and its Arab neighbors," Obama said.
Roni Sofer, Reuters, Yitzhak Benhorin and AP contributed to the story