US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for outlining to his Cabinet a US plan to extend a freeze on West Bank settlements for 90 days.
Netanyahu presented the plan, which he said was still being drafted with the Americans, to his Cabinet on Sunday, a step which US President Barack Obama told reporters appeared to be "a signal that he is serious."
The Palestinians halted peace talks after Israel's 10-month partial construction moratorium expired in September. The Obama administration has offered Israel diplomatic and defense perks to renew the freeze for 90 days, giving negotiations a chance.
"This is a very promising development and a serious effort by Prime Minister Netanyahu," Clinton said, declining comment on the details of the plan but stressing that the United States was in close contact with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
"We are going to continue to do everything we possibly can to get the parties to begin the kind of serious, end-game negotiations that are necessary" to end the conflict, she added.
Meanwhile, senior Cabinet members told Ynet Monday rejected the Prime Minister Office's claim that a deal on a settlement freeze has yet to be finalized. "Had it not been finalized, Netanyahu would not have presented the proposal to the inner cabinet. Clinton and Obama's words of praise prove that as far as they're concerned the deal is sealed," one minister said.
On Monday Obama commended Netanyahu "for taking a very helpful step.
"It is not an easy step not for him, but it shows he's serious,” the American leader said.
Most ministers have yet to openly express any opposition to the freeze, but in an interview with Channel 2 on Monday Benny Begin (Likud) called on Netanyahu to live up to his "commitments."
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