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WASHINGTON – On the eve of his visit to the Middle East, US special envoy George Mitchell threatened that his country would freeze its aid to Israel if the Jewish state failed to advance peace talks with the Palestinians and a two-state solution.
Mitchell clarified in an interview to the PBS network that the United States would use incentives or sanctions against both sides.
On December 20, 2009, the Senate passed the annual foreign aid bill for fiscal year 2010, which includes $2.22 billion in security assistance to Israel. The aid, approved the week prior by the House of Representatives, was included in a larger spending bill funding major parts of the federal government. The legislation has been sent to President Obama for his signature. The aid, when combined with $555 million approved in an earlier bill, brings the total amount of aid to Israel in fiscal year 2010 to $2.775 billion - a $225 million increase from last year. Congress has now fully funded the second year of the 10-year U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding signed by the United States and Israel in 2007 to gradually increase U.S. security assistance to the Jewish state in order to meet increasing threats.
In related news, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh on Friday urged the Israelis and Palestinians to begin talks which would resolve the border issue, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was not optimistic about this latest take on the peace process.
"You cannot have discussions on borders while the territory you want to set up your state on is being eaten up by the settlements," Erekat said.