Netanyahu. To meet with Mitchell this week
Photo: Flash 90

Israel to freeze, complete settlement building

PM, defense minister's representatives brief cabinet's narrow forum on progress made in talks with Americans, in bid to solve settlement construction dispute. According to US formula, possible compromise will allow completion of some 2,500 housing units

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's special representatives, Yitzhak Molcho and Mike Herzog, who returned from meetings with senior US administration officials, have briefed the cabinet's narrow forum on a possible compromise with the Americans over settlement building: Freezing construction in the settlements while allowing the completion of buildings whose construction has already begun.


At the same time, according to the compromise, Arab countries will offer gestures in the form of steps of normalization with Israel.


The meetings were held in the United States in preparation for Netanyahu's meeting with US special envoy George Mitchell on Wednesday.


Alongside agreements on strategic issues like the Iranian one, the dispute over the American demand for a complete stop to Israeli settlements remains an obstacle in the relations between the two countries. The Israeli agreement not to allow building starts in settlement and in east Jerusalem, which received global praise after being reported by Ynet last week, has failed to change the picture.


During a narrow forum meeting held Thursday evening at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu and Barak's representatives presented the agreements reached with the Obama administration ahead of the prime minister's meeting with Mitchell in London.


According to the emissaries, a possible compromise will allow the completion of some 2,500 housing units which are currently being built. However, the Americans are still insisting on a complete freeze of new construction and building starts, including in the settlement blocs and communities in the Jerusalem vicinity, which Israel believes will remain under its sovereignty after a permanent agreement with the Palestinians is signed.


The six ministers who are part of the narrow forum are at odds over the matter, with Defense Minister Barak – supported by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor – leading to a proclaimed freeze of three to six month, in return for the option to complete construction in housing units whose building has already begun and normalization steps on the part of Arab countries and the Palestinians, including the possibility of renewing ties with Oman and Qatar.


The other three ministers in the forum – Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Minister Benny Begin and Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon, believe the American demand must be rejected.


The prime minister is scheduled to leave for a four-day visit to London and Berlin and Monday. During the visit, Netanyahu will meet with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He will be joined on this trip by Minister Yossi Peled.


The trip will reach its peak on Wednesday, in a meeting with US President Barack Obama's Mideast envoy George Mitchell. State officials in Jerusalem have expressed their optimism ahead of this meeting and the possible compromise reached with the US.


פרסום ראשון: 08.23.09, 07:16
 new comment
This will delete your current comment