Israel has demanded the United States provide written security guarantees before it votes on whether to agree to freeze Jewish settlement building in the West Bank, an Israeli political source said Tuesday.
The official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will present the offer to his Cabinet only upon receiving written guarantees which "reflect the understandings reached during his talks with Hillary Clinton in New York."
Jerusalem is insisting that it is the Palestinians who are delaying a finalized version of the US proposal. "What is causing the delay in drafting an agreed version of the American paper is the Palestinian claim that the understandings between Clinton and Netanyahu are too good for Israel and deny them of pressure means," a state official said.
"The political benefits take the pressure off Israel and prevent the Palestinians from carrying out their strategic plan of evading direct talks and trying to impose UN resolutions on Israel."
Another official said the agreement includes an American commitment to veto any initiative brought before the UN to bypass the peace negotiations; a US commitment not to demand another freeze extension beyond the agreed upon 90 days and guarantee that the borders issue will not be negotiated on separately.
There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials.
Government officials who are familiar with the issue told Ynet that Netanyahu's demand for written guarantees has resulted in some tension with the Americans.
The Americans, one official said, wanted to water down the agreement due to Palestinian opposition to a US commitment that it would not demand another freeze.
The officials hinted that Netanyahu is demanding a US pledge that a final peace agreement would not include the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.
On the other hand, some senior Cabinet members claimed a deal has already been finalized. "This is just a spin; a trick to show that Netanyahu is fighting. You don't sit with (Hillary) Clinton for seven hours. These are just stories. Everything is signed and agreed upon," one of them said.
Meanwhile, Knesset Member Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) is expected to hand Netanyahu a petition against the plan to resume the West Bank construction freeze. "The letter is aimed at sending a clear message to the prime minister that the Likud faction is against extending the freeze and urges him to preserve the principles he himself suggested.
"We cannot sell our national interests," she said.
Minister Yuli Edelstein and MKs Zeev Elkin, Haim Katz, Miri Regev, Danny Danon and Yariv Levin are expected to sign the letter.
Renewed construction 'unilateral step'
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat stressed that his men had yet to receive the details of the deal from the Americans, implying that Israel was trying to cause the PA to respond to the understanding through the media, before an official agreement had been reached.
"Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) informed Netanyahu that the Palestinian Authority would not resume the negotiations if Israel renewed the settlement construction," Erekat said.
"The Israeli talk about resumed construction even in some of the settlements is a unilateral step which greatly influences the negotiations. This is an Israeli attempt to lower our expectations."
Erekat stressed, however, that the Palestinians had no plans to compromise on any of their demands.
"Peace, as far as we are concerned, does not include giving up on any rights. It will be based on the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders – in addition to the return of refugees and the release of all prisoners. Israel must think twice before it builds a strategy supporting leaving the situation as is. We won't take part in such a move."
Reuters, Yair Altman and Roni Sofer contributed to the report
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