WASHINGTON - Defense Minister Ehud Barak and US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell failed to reach an agreement regarding the Israeli construction in the settlements during their meeting in Washington Monday.
Mitchell is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu in about two weeks.
A joint statement published following the meeting said that Barak and Mitchell "discussed the full range of issues related to Middle East peace and security and the contributions Israelis, Palestinians, their neighbors and the international community should make to this effort.
"Specifically, their discussions covered a wide range of measures needed to create a climate conducive to peace. These included measures on security and incitement by the Palestinians, steps by Arab states toward normalization with Israel; and, from Israel, actions on access and movement in the West Bank and on settlement activity. The discussions were constructive and will continue soon."
The two discussed ways to jumpstart the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinains. Barak made it clear that Israel is willing to pay a price for renewing the talks, but that the Arab world needs to contribute to the efforts as well. "We are weighing any positive contribution we can make to promote the peace efforts, while taking into consideration our security interests," he said.
No agreement was reached on freezing settlement construction. The US is demanding that Israel put an immediate moratorium on all building in the settlement blocs. However, the Obama administration is interested in decreasing the conflict that has flared between the US and Israel over the issue out of an understanding that such a state of affairs does not serve their interests in the Middle East.
Mitchell will arrive for another round of meetings in about two weeks. Until then, the Americans are expecting a number of goodwill gestures from Israel, such as easing restrictions on West Bank Palestinians.
Barak's entourage received the impression that the Americans understand that any demand for freezing settlement building must not be separate from an inclusive, regional peace process. Therefore, the US will also be looking for goodwill gestures from the Arab states.