Israel cabinet discusses US settlement plan
Jerusalem, November 14, 2010
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a US plan to his cabinet on Sunday that would extend a freeze on West Bank settlements for 90 days in return for diplomatic and security incentives.
Washington wants Israel to renew a freeze on settlement building in efforts to resume peace talks with Palestinians, who in September halted negotiations after just a few weeks when Israel refused to extend a 10-month settlement freeze.
Under the US proposal, if Israel extended the freeze Washington would pledge not to seek further extensions and to veto any attempts at the United Nations to force a unilateral peace settlement.
US security aid to Israel would also be upgraded.
"I will insist that in any proposal Israel's security needs will be addressed, both in the immediate term and regarding the threats facing us in the coming decade," Netanyahu said in public comments before the cabinet meeting.
The prime minister has previously said any settlement moratorium will not apply to areas around East Jerusalem that Israel captured during a 1967 war and the Palestinians want as the capital of a future state. One official in Netanyahu's office said the proposal had "positive elements".
Israeli political sources said a narrow majority in Netanyahu's security cabinet, which is ultimately responsible, would likely support accepting the US proposal.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared the plan at a meeting in New York last week, Netanyahu said, adding that US and Israeli teams were still negotiating a final formula.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said there had been no official word regarding a renewed Israeli freeze on housing starts in the occupied West Bank.
"An official Palestinian commitment will come only after President Abbas hears officially from the American administration what is going on between them and the Israelis," Nabil Abu Rdainah told Reuters.
Palestinian officials in private have expressed anger over US incentives to get Israel to prolong the partial freeze, saying they were effectively bribing Israel to fulfil basic international obligations. - Reuters