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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

At least three ministers oppose 'temporary settlement freeze'

At least three of the six ministers in Prime Minister Netanyahu's security cabinet oppose even a 'temporary' freeze on construction in the 'settlements.' The three are Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon (pictured), Benny Begin and Avigdor Lieberman.
Monday morning the forum, which includes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and ministers Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Moshe Ya'alon, met to agree on a position that Barak would then present to Mitchell.

Barak supported a formula according to which Israel would freeze settlement construction completely, except for projects that have already started, and would require U.S. guarantees on the future of the peace process.

A political source in Jerusalem said that Barak's position was countered by Lieberman, Begin and Ya'alon, who opposed his proposal. The three argued that "a temporary freeze" of settlement construction will create a precedent and may become permanent. "If we start it will be difficult to go back," the three said.

It is unclear what the positions of Netanyahu and Meridor were.

According to the three ministers opposing Barak, Israel must not propose a "temporary freeze" without a commitment for similar and equal concessions by Arab states and the Palestinian Authority, and as part of a broader package deal. Another argument put forth was that Israel must request guarantees from the U.S., so that it is not surprised by American initiatives without earlier consultation.

"We must explain to the Americans that we, too, have red lines," Deputy Prime Minister Ya'alon said during the meeting.
According to Haaretz, Barak will present a more 'watered-down' proposal in his meeting with Mitchell on Tuesday.
During the meeting with Mitchell, Barak intends to present a more watered-down proposal, which will include a declared wish to resolve the settlements issue during negotiations with the Palestinian Authority over a final settlement agreement. Moreover, the proposal will be to limit new construction to the addition of stories to existing structures in the settlements, except for projects that have already begun.
Arutz Sheva reports that the State Department is now more 'open' to negotiations over the freeze:
Nevertheless, the spokesman hinted that a compromised agreement would be acceptable. “Well, inherent in the word ‘negotiation’ is, of course, sitting down and finding what one side – what the other side wants and then working out a way to come to a resolution that leads to our goal of a lasting peace in the Middle East,” Kelly said. “I’m not going to say we’re not willing to compromise or – I mean, let’s just see what happens,” the State Department official added, referring to Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s intended meeting Tuesday with U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.
On Monday, the New York Times reported that Israel is more open to a compromise on a 'settlement freeze.'
Israel would be open to a complete freeze of settlement building in the West Bank for three to six months as part of a broad Middle East peace endeavor that included a Palestinian agreement to negotiate an end to the conflict and confidence-building steps by major Arab nations, senior Israeli officials said Sunday.

The officials spoke before a planned meeting in Washington on Tuesday between Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, and George J. Mitchell, the Obama administration’s Middle East envoy, and said this was the message Mr. Barak would take with him.

The freeze would not affect construction that was already under way, nor include East Jerusalem. But it would mean that during the specified time no construction of any kind could start even in the close-in settlement blocks that Israel expects to keep in any future two-state agreement with the Palestinians.
I doubt this is going to be more than three months, and I believe that it will not apply to 'East Jerusalem' nor to existing construction. I also believe it will be a de facto freeze - Defense Minister Barak won't issue any more permits, but the cabinet will not adopt any resolution nor will the Knesset, so that no one can argue down the road that this is a legal undertaking. I don't believe the Obama administration can press Israel on this anymore because they have overplayed their hand by making a big deal out of this issue and people are starting to wake up to it.


At 3:07 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel is offering the Administration a face-saving way out. If Obama insists on putting his anti-Israel beliefs into practice, only then will a showdown be unavoidable. The ball is in the White House's court.

Then there's always the Pulsa D'Nura if its too pig-headed for its own good. Just sayin.'

At 3:34 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Moshe Arens writes today in Haaretz the real issue is the right of Jews to live in Yesha and Gaza is a basic principle that must not be subject to negotiation. It is not really a quibble over borders or Jewish babies; it is about an inalienable Jewish right.

Obama Sweet-Talks Dictators, Yet Strong-Arms Israel

The American President must not be allowed to succeed in imposing his evil decree upon the Jewish people.

There's more. Read it all.

At 9:50 PM, Blogger R-MEW Editors said...

Notice that by assuming a maximalist position on the settlements going in, i.e., no growth of any kind, even if Obama "backs down" on natural growth, he will have successfully quashed any possibility of Israel proceeding with more controversial settlement activities which have been in planning for years, e.g., E1.

Hussein negotiates just like his brothers on the peninsula.


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