Report: US gives Abbas assurances over Israeli construction in Jerusalem
Guardian reports as part of efforts to launch indirect Israel-PA talks, Abbas was told US would consider allowing UN condemnation of any 'significant new Israeli settlement activity'; Mitchell's deputy quoted as saying settlement construction provocative
As part of the efforts to convince the Palestinians to enter indirect peace talks with Israel, the US has given Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas private assurances, including an offer to consider allowing UN Security Council condemnation of any "significant new Israeli settlement activity," the Guardian reported overnight Friday.
According to the British newspaper's report, the assurances were given verbally in a meeting a week ago between a senior American diplomat and Abbas.
The Guardian said the American offer was the basis for the optimism on the part of both Israel and the PA regarding the resumption of peace talks.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, denied assurances were given. "It's not true," he was quoted by the Guardian as saying. "We are still talking to the Americans."
But a Palestinian source, who was given a detailed account of the meeting, was quoted by the British daily as saying that David Hale, the deputy of the US special envoy, George Mitchell, told Abbas that President Barack Obama wanted to see the peace process move forward with the starting of so-called "proximity" talks.
'Rare sign of American anger'
The diplomat said Washington understood there were obstacles and described Israeli "settlement construction" as "provocative," according to the report.
Hale, the Guardian reported, told Abbas the Americans had received assurances from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the construction project in east Jerusalem'sRamat Shlomo neighborhood would not go ahead, at least for now.
Last month an agreement on indirect talks collapsed within a day of being announced, after Israeli officials approved the construction of 1,600 new homes in the neighborhood. The US vice president, Joe Biden, who was in Jerusalem at the time, condemned the Israeli announcement.
"Hale then told Abbas that if there was significantly provocative settlement activity, including in east Jerusalem, Washington may consider allowing the UN Security Council to censure Israel. It was understood that meant the US would abstain from voting on a resolution rather than use its veto, the Guardian reported.
According to the Guardian, "Any US decision not to veto a resolution critical of Israel would be very unusual and a rare sign of American anger towards its long-time ally. However, it was not clear what may constitute significantly provocative activity."
Meanwhile, it was reported this week that Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai was officially invited to visit the White House.
The decision is apparently the result of the US Administration's desire to forge closer ties with the minister they perceive to be behind the east Jerusalem construction turmoil during Vice President Biden's visit in Israel.