WASHINGTON – Special US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell arrived in Israel Thursday for a series of talks with high-ranking Israeli officials. Washington officials said that the American administration believes Israel and the Palestinians truly want to resume negotiations, which was the reason for Mitchell's visit.
The US envoy will meet President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, in Ramallah.
In his daily press briefing, State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley refused to comment on recent tensions between Jerusalem and Washington regarding construction in east Jerusalem.
When asked about Israel's response to US President Barack Obama's demands on the subject, Crowley said the United States received "a number of ideas from the Israelis" in response to "specific steps" that the Obama administration asked them to take."Have they done everything that we'd like to see them do? No. But this is why ... we're continuing this conversation."
White House officials, he added, "don't go to meet just to meet. We go there because we have some indication that (Israel and the PA) are willing to engage seriously on the issues. There's been a good give and take, and that is why George is there today," he said.
"We understand that the Israelis have a long-standing position," he said. "But as (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) has said repeatedly, the status quo is not sustainable."
Crowley denied that the US was still waiting for Israel' response to Washington's demands.