by Zhang Yanyang
JERUSALEM, April 17 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Thursday told visiting U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell a different strategy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as the traditional approach taken by previous Israeli governments had proven futile despite the concessions they have made.
In a statement, Lieberman noted that "Past (Israeli) prime ministers were prepared to make wide-ranging concessions and the result of the Olmert-Livni government was the second Lebanon war, the operation in Gaza, severance of relations with Qatar and Mauritania, (abducted Israeli soldier) Gilad Shalit still in captivity and the peace process at a dead end."
Mitchell, however, told Lieberman that the U.S remains committed to a two-state solution, which the Netanyahu government has thus far declined to openly commit to.
"I reiterated to the foreign minister that U.S. policy favors, with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a two-state solution which will have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel," Mitchell told reporters, adding that he also looked forward to achieving comprehensive peace throughout the region.
But Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon still regarded their meeting as "very good."
"It was a very good meeting where many of the regional issues were discussed," Ayalon told Xinhua, adding that "It should be understood that this was the very first meeting between the two administrations, both of whom are undergoing a policy review. Both sides spoke of the need for coordination between the two nations."
Meanwhile, Menachem Klein, a professor of politics at Bar Ilan University, told Xinhua, "To date I have not heard anything new from the Obama administration that is different from the Bush administration."
"All the statements and declarations of U.S. President Barack Obama on the two-state solution, principles set in Annapolis and the road map were made by his predecessors," he said.
He acknowledged, however, that the Obama administration was not likely to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a priority.
"As long as it does not get a higher priority, it will remain in the realm of conflict management. However, if he doesn't attend to it, it can erupt and affect his policy elsewhere," he said.
Washington has decided to follow a regional peace plan that will be based on the Arab peace initiative, and reinforced by international security guarantees for Israel.
Under this plan, Arab states would normalize ties with the Jewish state based on progress in negotiations to be held with the Palestinians and Syria.
But some analysts echoed Lieberman's skepticism concerning the "traditional" approach, which requires Israel to concede land, and subsequently security, and which they say has so far only led to more violence.
"Mitchell stated that the dream of the American government was to have a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state. I presume he knows that a Jewish state is not something that the Arab world is willing to accept," Lenny Ben David, a former Israeli diplomat, told Xinhua.
Ben David noted that the anticipated increase in U.S. pressure on Israel came at a dangerous time as the Palestinians remained divided and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) had not fulfilled its part of the road map to stop attacks.
"If you give them a prize before they have earned it, they are going to take it," he said, noting that Mitchell might be playing in the hands of the militant factions that could regard the U.S. pressure on Israel as a sign of encouragement.
He said he feared Israel might be on the verge of the third Palestinian intifada (uprising) that would be brought on because Palestinian militants would come to the conclusion that whatever their actions, the U.S. would still pressure Israel.
"They would say both the Americans and the Europeans are critical of Israel so if we raise the pressure and we throw more bombs no blame will be placed against us," Ben David said.
According to Palestinian sources, the PNA intends to present clear demands to Israel through Mitchell as prerequisites for resuming final status talks with Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to ask the U.S. envoy to press Israel to recognize the two-state principle, and push for agreement on all aspects of a final settlement that would ultimately result in the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"I don't think that there is a role for the Palestinians at this point in time except for working on their international relations in order to gather momentum to an international position against Israel, against the new Israeli position by the new government," Ghassan Khatib, vice president of Birzeit University near Ramallah, told Xinhua.
He noted that Abbas was currently jumping from one country to the next, both within the Arab world and outside, in order to gather international pressure to push Israel to commit to the two-state solution.
Khatib said, however, that internal politics were still of crucial importance for any internationally mediated peace plan to be successful.
"Fatah is trying hard to push for reform in order to convene a congress, which has been postponed for a long while but now seems to be coming soon," he said.
"The Palestinian leadership is also trying to improve the internal situation by investing in the reconciliation dialogue with Hamas in hopes of reducing the level of hostility and to improve the domestic front," added Khatib.