US official: Freeze proposal details still being 'haggled over'
Most unresolved issues in US freeze proposal are routine, Washington source says. State officials in Jerusalem say discussions still being held on security package, add: 'There is some difficulty in way in which fighter jets will be supplied'
A senior official with the Obama administration said Thursday the United States and Israel were still "haggling" over details of the written assurances. The official said most of the unresolved issues were relatively routine but added that it was unlikely that the letter would be finished Thursday.
He noted it was not clear when the letter might be completed.
Meanwhile, state officials in Israel suggested there were few clauses left to be worked out, but noted it was not likely the US paper will be finalized soon.
On Wednesday, Ynet reported of the disagreement between Israel and the US over the F-35 fighter jets which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed will be included in the freeze deal. Sources familiar with the matter said Thursday that progress has been made on the issue and stated that the aircrafts will arrive in Israel in 2015. Nevertheless, it appears there still is a misunderstanding regarding the payment for the jets.
In his meetings with the sevem ministers Saturday night and the Likud ministers, Netanyahu stressed that the 20 fighter jets will be given as a gift from the US and that Israel will not have to pay for them using funds from the security aid budget.
The parties are still working out the details of the matter as it appears the US had a different take on the understandings reached between Clinton and Netanyahu in New York. It also appears there were misunderstandings regarding the time in which the aircrafts will be provided, as Israel expected to receive them in the coming years while the US planned on supplying them after a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians is achieved.
A state official said: "The parties are still discussing the security package. There is some difficulty in the manner in which the planes will be supplied. At the moment Shas has stepped aside and its demands regarding construction in Jerusalem are a minor obstacle on the way to finalizing the paper."
The paper is slated to include a US pledge not to demand an additional moratorium at the end of the second freeze. The issue of Jerusalem is not mentioned, however sources close to the negotiations noted that the document suggests that Jerusalem is not included in the freeze.
Senior officials were optimistic Thursday about the possibility of reaching a draft agreement which will be brought for the cabinet's approval in the near future. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he was convinced that the cabinet will approve the final paper once it is finalized.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu met with a delegation of 50 analysts from a Washington research institute this week and told them he insists on receiving an American letter of assurances to be certain that "the Unites States is with me."
"He presented a very rigid stance on this issue," a senior official said. The delegation members also met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni. Prior to their Israel visit, the analysts also met with Jordanian King Abdullah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Netanyahu said in the meeting he is interested in furthering the political process, however elements who were in contact with the US delegation claimed he also asked them to lower their expectations as far as the ability to reach a permanent agreement with the Palestinians. Other sources said that Netanyahu sounded "very serious" in his wish to advance the peace process.
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