JERUSALEM – European Union special envoy Marc Otte has some advice for President Obama's Middle East liaison, George Mitchell:
"Continue to listen to people because it is the way you learn, but don't wait too long before you start moving on something," said Otte, the EU's special representative to the Middle East peace process. "In this region the perfect alignment of planets never exists."
Mitchell met with Israeli leaders Thursday, including President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, where he reaffirmed the Obama administration's goal of creating a Palestinian state.
Lieberman told Mitchell that attempts by past Israeli prime ministers to engage in the peace process, begun with Oslo, were a failure and that the results have only brought terror, Israeli officials told FOX News. The statement puts the Israeli government at odds with the White House.
This will be Mitchell's first round of meetings since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government was sworn in on March 31.
Netanyahu has yet to comment publicly about his view on the desirability of a Palestinian state. It's far from a foregone conclusion; he has said he prefers building the Palestinian economy in the West Bank first. He will meet with Mitchell Thursday night.
Netanyahu has said dealing with Iran's nuclear threat will be among his top priorities.
Otte believes offering Israel support in dealing with Iran in exchange for a Palestinian state could be one option for the new U.S. administration.
"I think Iran can certainly be made into a positive player," said Otte. "How these conditions will be created depends on the policy review that has been announced by President Obama."
Among Obama's major foreign policy goals, he'd like to see greater stability in Afghanistan where violence led by Taliban militants continues to rise. NATO, the 28-nation military alliance, has agreed to send 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan to beef up security for elections on August 20.
Otte said there is growing concern that Obama's interest in an Afghan surge could mean fewer resources for the Middle East, such as monitoring of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. The issue was discussed at a recent NATO summit.