The meeting between Netanyahu and United States envoy, George Mitchell, scheduled for Thursday, was canceled. According to sources, Obama would have put pressure on his Israeli counterpart, who remains opposed to any freeze on settlements in the West Bank.
Israel-U.S. relations appear to be fundamentally strained by disagreement over the settlements in the West Bank. A meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and American envoy for the Middle East, George Mitchell, scheduled Thursday in Paris, has been canceled. According to widely-circulated daily Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, Washington canceled the meeting as a sign of displeasure. A senior government official quoted by the newspaper says the White House bluntly informed Israel that the meeting would not be taking place as long as Israel did not modify its position on settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The Obama administration accuses the government led by “Bibi” of intransigence on this issue. While the American president called for a complete freeze of settlement construction in the West Bank during his speech in Cairo on June 4, Israel continues to oppose it. The Jewish state intends to continue the colonization pattern of "natural growth" for existing settlements, given their demographics. Netanyahu said he was, however, willing to dismantle outpost settlements.
Adding his perspective on this cancellation, an official of the delegation of Benyamin Netanyahu, currently on tour in Europe, said it was the Israeli prime minister who took the initiative for the cancellation. Objective: to enable his defense minister, Ehud Barak, first to have a discussion with George Mitchell on Monday in Washington.
“A classic example of political pressure”
On the contrary, Yossi Alpher, an Israeli researcher solicited by the Agence France-Presse, considers the cancellation of this meeting to be “a message, clearly addressed by Obama, as much to Israelis as to Americans.” “It proves that the administration (American) will not compromise on colonization and that, inasmuch as Netanyahu is unyielding, he is becoming a persona non grata in Washington.” For Alpher, “This is a classic example of political pressure."
The Israeli Ministry of Defense denied having approved on Tuesday, construction of hundreds of houses in an outpost settlement in the West Bank, as asserted by Israeli NGO, Bimkom [“Planners for Planning Rights"].
According to that organization, the plan envisaged the construction of 300 residential units (240 new constructions and legalization of 60 existing constructions). A person in charge of the ministry gave assurances that no new construction permits had been issued, and specified that the only authorizations had been granted by the preceding government.