Diplomats: US offered incentives for freeze

Nov 13 2010 - 6:09pm

JERUSALEM -- The U.S. has offered Israel an incentive package to reinstate a moratorium on West Bank settlement building in an effort to revive stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, diplomatic sources said late Saturday.

The sources said the deal stipulates that Israel would stop settlement construction for 90 days in the West Bank. The moratorium would not apply to east Jerusalem. The U.S. will not ask Israel to extend the new moratorium when it expires. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

U.S. brokered talks between Israel and the Palestinians resumed in September after a nearly two year hiatus, but they quickly stalled over the issue of settlement expansion.

The Palestinians say they will not resume peace talks until Israel stops building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem -- territory they claim as parts of their future state.

Israel insists the issue of settlements will become null and void once final borders are agreed upon.

Diplomats said Saturday night that the incentive package includes U.S. commitments to fight international resolutions critical of Israel.

In addition, the diplomats said the U.S. Administration will ask congress to supply 20 stealth fighter jets to Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and other U.S. officials last week. Netanyahu convened a meeting of his inner cabinet Saturday night to brief them on his meetings.

It's not clear if the U.S. incentives deal would be enough for the Palestinians, though, because it doesn't include a building freeze in east Jerusalem, which they want as their future capital.

Israel drew criticism from the U.S. and the European Union last week after new construction plans for apartments in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem were released while Netanyahu was meeting American officials. Netanyahu issued a statement at the time defending the plans saying "Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is the capital of the state of Israel."

Palestinians say construction there undermines the talks. They have said that if negotiations fail they will consider sidestepping Israel and seek U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state.

 

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