Israel controls the process from start to finish

The sound and feel of utter failure. Washington’s so-called power is deemed irrelevant once again:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to open the Knesset’s winter session on Monday with a diplomatic speech that, despite two meetings in the last three days with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, is not expected to include an announcement of a renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians.

A good part of the speech is expected to deal not with the Mitchell mission, but rather with the Goldstone Commission report. Netanyahu has said repeatedly that the document, which accuses Israel of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead, will harm the diplomatic process, because it calls into question the legitimacy of Israel acting in self-defense, something that will make it unlikely for Israel to be willing to take risks for peace.

The prime minister met on Sunday afternoon with Mitchell, who wrapped up a five-day visit to the region without announcing any movement toward his elusive goal of putting together a package that would enable the restart of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. They also met on Friday.

The Prime Minister’s Office, which has taken to providing almost no details of the Mitchell-Netanyahu meetings, put out a laconic statement saying the two men, joined by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, met for more than an hour, and “continued their discussions on moving the peace process forward.”