Deadline extended in bid to keep Israel-Palestinian talks alive
Palestinian leaders say continued settlement expansion in the West Bank could halt peace talks by the end of the week. Is an acceptable compromise in the works?
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WINEP fellow David Makovsky reported that the US has offered in a letter to: allow Israel to station troops on the West Bank's border with Jordan in order to prevent arms smuggling, enhance military assistance, veto any UN Security Council resolutions connected to the Arab-Israeli conflict for one year, and make no further requests for settlement freezes. In exchange, Israel would freeze settlement expansion for 60 days.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Makovsky went on to say that If Israel declined the offer, the US indicated it might give the Palestinians a commitment that any territorial compromise with Israel be based on the 1967 Green Line, Israel's border before it seized territory in the wake of the Six Day War.
The liberal daily Haaretz said that Netanyahu is going to discuss a freeze extension at a Wednesday meeting of his security cabinet.
Netanyahu declined to directly respond to any of the specific reports, though he did say that much of the news has been inaccurate. The prime minister's "no comment" is fueling expectations that a deal might be in the works.
``[The comment] is an indication that what Netanyahu said was his final position, isn't final,'' said Gershon Baskin, co-director of the Israel Palestinian Center for Research and Information, who speculated that the prime minister is under pressure from Israel-friendly allies in the US to change his stance. "Bibi's basic inclination is to say no. Maybe the Americans have sweetened the offer."
For the moment, the Palestinians are indicating that a temporary, one-time only freeze is not sufficient. On Saturday, a top body of the Palestine Liberation Organization reaffirmed that building must stop before Abbas pushes forward with peace talks.
Palestinian spokesman Ghassan Khatib says he didn't have any knowledge of a letter sent to Netanyahu by the Americans. "We don’t know what the letter is about. And we can’t comment on it," he says. "We have no problems with guarantees from the Americans about Israeli security as long as it doesn’t infringe on the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.’’
He said that an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley would be a deal-breaker. "This is unacceptable. President Abbas said the the two state [solution] should not allow any Israeli presence in the Palestinian state. An international military presence, however, would be acceptable."
The peace process has become bogged down on the issue of building in the settlements – which the Palestinians say is a key indication of Israel's seriousness, but would be made moot if the sides could reach an agreement on a mutual border.
Lasensky at the USIP says: "The principal challenge for the US right now is to move the conversation decisively back to the terms of peace, and away from important but ultimately peripheral issues."