Israel will dismantle the 26 illegal outposts in the West Bank within a matter of weeks in return for the resumption of the 'natural growth' of existing settlement blocs. This is the offer Defense Minister Ehud Barak will present to the US administration during his visit to Washington next week.
The deal was agreed upon in a late-night meeting Sunday between Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Meanwhile an Israeli delegation headed by Minister Dan Meridor left for London on Tuesday for a coordination meeting with US officials ahead of Barak's visit. The team also includes representatives from Netanyahu and Barak's offices – namely Uzi Arad, Yitzhak Molcho and Mike Herzog.
The officials will discuss the renewal of the peace process opposite the Palestinian Authority and efforts already undertaken to dismantle the outposts.
Barak is scheduled to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor, former General James Jones.
Taking down the outposts, the defense minister will say, constitutes an tangible act of good will towards the Palestinians. In exchange he will ask for more flexibility on Washington's part in regards to their demand for a total freeze on all settlement construction – including natural growth.
No new settlements
Israel, Barak will stress, has no intentions of either building new settlements or expanding the existing ones beyond their current borders. He will also ask that similar terms apply to settlements adjacent to the security barrier such as Beitar Illit and Modi'in Illit.
As a general rule, Barak and Netanyahu agreed, Israel believes that discussion of the settlements' future should occur with the progression of the negotiations.
The pervading belief of sources close to the developments in Jerusalem is that the Americans will view the offer favorably as the arrangement regarding the larger settlement blocs was upheld by previous administrations.
Former US President George W. Bush essentially recognized the blocs in a letter to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Prime Minister Netanyahu implied that it was crucial to take down the outposts so as to focus US attention on the Iranian threat.
Barak, who is also chairman of the Labor party, recently said that the outposts should be dismantled not because of US pressure but because they are illegal under Israeli law.