US asks Israel for 90-day freeze on settlement construction

Saturday, November 13, 2010

TEL AVIV - The US has urged Israel to freeze new settlement construction for 90 days with the incentive of US backing in the UN and a supply of advanced fighter planes, the Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.

The proposal is aimed at restarting peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, which have hit an impasse, with the Palestinians refusing to rejoin the direct negotiations since an Israeli moratorium on settlements expired Sep 26, just weeks after the relaunch of the talks.

The US has assured Israel of a veto in the UN Security Council on any proposal that would try and impose a Middle East peace agreement on Israel. The administration of President Barack Obama would also ask the US Congress to approve the supply of 20 advanced fighter planes worth $3 billion to Israel.

The deal was reportedly made during a meeting Thursday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York.

Netanyahu brought the proposal to his inner cabinet Saturday night and was to explain it to the full cabinet on Sunday, the report said.

The proposed moratorium doesn’t cover building in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians envision as the capital of a future state. If Israel accepted the deal, then the US would not request another building freeze, the report said.

The new 90-day freeze would include any new construction started after the previous 10-month moratorium ended in September.

The Palestinians said Saturday that they did not believe the deal was a sign of progress, according to the Post report.

Israel this week announced plans for additional settlement construction in East Jerusalem, as Netanyahu was in the US.

“This announcement was counterproductive to our efforts to resume negotiations between the parties. We have long urged both parties to avoid actions which could undermine trust, including in Jerusalem,” Clinton said.

Obama, travelling in Asia, said Tuesday the new settlement plans were unhelpful to the peace process. The dispute had created tensions in the longstanding US-Israeli friendship.

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