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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

'Settlement freeze' extension proposal cut back to 60 days; UPDATED

The United States is now proposing a 60-day extension of the 'settlement freeze' to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Earlier, they had talked about three months.
Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell is flying back to the region tonight with his deputy David Hale and the NSC’s Dan Shapiro, the State Department said, and will be meeting with the Israeli and the Palestinian parties later in the week.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in Paris Monday that he would refrain from issuing an announcement on whether he would stay or leave Israeli-Palestinian direct talks until an Oct. 4 meeting of the Arab League.

That gives U.S. negotiators a week to try to salvage the talks.

In addition to proposing a 60 day settlement freeze extension, the new U.S. package puts forward some assurances to Israel on security issues, Makovsky said.

Earlier Monday, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt Daniel Kurtzer said he was not optimistic that the immediate crisis had but been postponed.

"All [Abbas] has done is defer the issue for a few days, while he consults” with various foreign leaders and advisors, Kurtzer said. “Maybe they will come up with some magical formula. ….But I don’t know if the problem is solved so much as the fight has been deferred” for a few more days.

“If the building that is taking place ... in fact gets confined to [major settlement] blocks, maybe this one will go away,” Kurtzer continued. “But it doesn’t look that way. The celebrations last night were in out of the way settlements.”

That said, some reports suggested new settlement building was more limited than first appeared from settler celebrations as the freeze expired Sunday, due to Israel being in the midst of a seven day Jewish holiday.
The holiday ends on Thursday night, and building is likely to start in earnest on Sunday.

No word whether the discussion is going to be about borders during those 60 days (do they really think they can resolve borders within 60 days?) although the mention of security makes it more likely that things are moving in our direction.

The word is that the Obama administration is finally understanding that Abu Mazen is the problem and not Netanyahu. I will have more on that later.


Haaretz has a different take and more details.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with Netanyahu twice on the telephone Monday to discuss the proposal, which would include U.S. guarantees over core issues in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on issues including refugees, security arrangements and Israel's status as a Jewish state. In return for the American guarantees, Israel would extend the suspension of construction in West Bank settlements for several more months. At this stage Netanyahu is believed to be resistant to the offer.

According to an Israeli source who is familiar with the details of the conversations between Clinton and the prime minister, Netanyahu was not impressed by the proposal and did not give a positive response to it.

A European diplomat who has been briefed on the latest developments said Netanyahu has made it clear to U.S. officials that any extension of the freeze will not apply to the large settlement blocs, and that construction on 2,000 residential units for which permits have already been issued will be permitted to continue.

Abbas is demanding a total suspension of construction in the settlements. The Palestinian leader met Monday in Paris with Nicolas Sarkozy.
But Haaretz with its extreme Leftist bias goes on to say that the pressure is being placed on Netanyahu. That's not what I'm hearing.

And it looks like both Netanyahu and Abu Mazen will meet with Sarkozy in October. Although it's being done 'in coordination with the United States,' you can't help but wonder whether that means that Obama has had it or that the parties have had it with Obama.


At 12:00 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel is not likely to agree to extend the freeze unless it gets something in exchange. And when Obama proposes to cut it back to 60 days, you know he's playing with a weak hand. I don't see the Palestinians accepting it and they want a permanent moratorium, something this Israeli government won't give them. That is how matters stand today.

At 12:28 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

The news that the parties have had it with Obama would be already great news.

At 2:24 AM, Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

I agree with Will, particularly if _Israel_ has had it with Obama. Don't even think for a moment that what this is about is Obama's "finally understanding" this or that--such as who is "the problem." Obama will _never_ understand the truth of the situation in Israel, because he never understands anything he doesn't want to understand, and he doesn't want to understand this. He is Israel's enemy. Just stick with that fact and make your hopes and plans from that point forward. With any luck, Israel's leaders will tell him to go pound sand.


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