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US Middle East envoy George Mitchell held talks with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at his Tel Aviv residence on Tuesday, as the zig-zagging lurch toward peace negations continues.

According to early reports, the discussion between the two officials focused on plans for indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in which Mitchell is to mediate.

Expectations for results on all sides are low for the so-called “proximity talks.” On Sunday a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he expected the proposed talks to collapse as a result of Israel’s refusal to halt all expansion of settlements built on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

“No doubt settlement activity is an impediment to both direct and indirect talks and it does not create [the] appropriate atmosphere for successful negotiations,” Nabil Abu Rudaina told Ma’an News Agency.

Also on Tuesday Reuters news agency quoted analysts suggesting that Abbas had stayed away from events commemorating the 1948 expulsion of some 750,000 Palestinians from their homes at the creation of the state of Israel. Theses sources said he wanted to “avoid an occasion in which he would be expected to condemn Israel in strong language,” according to the report. Palestinians call the expulsion the Nakba, the Catastrophe.

Mitchell is expected to travel to Ramallah to meet with Abbas on Wednesday before more talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday.

The proximity talks were scheduled to begin this week, but a formal launch has been delayed until the PLO Executive Committee approves the plan.

A nearly identical attempt to launch negotiations collapsed in March when Israel announced plans to massively expand a settlement in occupied East Jerusalem. Palestine note

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