JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel rejected remarks by Obama administration Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who said in a weekend interview that the U.S. may withhold loan guarantees if Israel doesn’t advance the peace process with the Palestinians.
“The reality is that…the United States has both carrots and sticks [and] you have to be very careful about how and when you use them…under American law, the United States can withhold support on loan guarantees to Israel,” Mitchell told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a response to Mitchell’s remarks on Saturday evening.
“Everyone realizes that the Palestinian Authority refuses to renew peace talks, while Israel took significant steps to advance the peace process. It is the Palestinian Authority that needs to change its ways, certainly not the Israeli government,” the statement read.
At Sunday morning’s Cabinet meeting, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar said Israel must not cave in to U.S. demands.
“The American administration knows that the Palestinians are holding up the negotiations. Israel made many concessions and the Palestinians didn’t do a thing,” Ezra said.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel was “doing just fine without U.S. guarantees.”
“We don’t need to use these guarantees,” Steinitz said. “We are doing just fine. But several months ago we agreed with the American treasury on guarantees for 2010 and 2011, and there were no conditions,” he said.
Meanwhile, at a press conference on Sunday in Jerusalem, visiting U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), John Barrasso (R-WY) and John Thune (R-SD), said they disagreed with Mitchell’s statement.
“I don’t think it’s helpful and I don’t agree with it,” Senator McCain said, while Lieberman predicted that Congress would not support ending guarantees to Israel.
The Jerusalem Post and The Associated Press contributed to this report.