Text size

Israeli rightists on Wednesday predicted a dismal fate for George Mitchell's peacemaking efforts, shortly before the new United States Middle East envoy was set to arrive in Israel.

"I fear that this mission has absolutely no chance [of success]," Army Radio quoted Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman as saying.

He was referring to fears that Mitchell seek to pressure Israel to halt settlement construction in the West Bank.

Lieberman added: "This diagnosis is incorrect. This is simply idle chatter; there is no connection between settlers and the conflict through which we have been living for so many years."

During a week-long trip to the region, Mitchell is expected to tell Israeli and Palestinian officials that U.S. President Barack Obama's administration wants to focus on stabilizing the Israel-Gaza cease-fire, rebuilding the Gaza Strip, and countering arms smuggling into Gaza with the help of Israel, Egypt and the European Union.

National Union chairman Ya'akov Katz branded Mitchell's arrival in the Middle East as flagrant interference in Israel's upcoming general election, claiming that it would damage Kadima chairwoman and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

"The voters will punish Kadima for its attempt to dictate to them who to choose," warned Katz, according to Army Radio.

Lawmakers in the Habayit Hayehudi party also lambasted Livni over Mitchell's visit, calling it a bid to save Israel's left-wing parties in the election.

Mitchell, a former U.S. senator, had had great success in brokering an agreement in Northern Ireland, and was dispatched to the Middle East in 2001 to pen a report on the outbreak of the second intifada. The document, dubbed the "Mitchell Report," included recommendations for confidence-building measures for each side. However ultimately both Israel and the Palestinians failed to implement these recommendations, and the report was subsequently shelved.