Netanyahu strikes a deal on Israeli settlements – could it freeze peace, too?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears set to push through a temporary Israeli settlement freeze in exchange for $3 billion in US military aid.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, long caught between intensifying US demands and the restlessness of his right-wing allies, appears to have struck a deal to delay Israeli settlement expansion without unsettling his government.Skip to next paragraph
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But far less certain is whether the delay will accomplish its stated purpose: luring the Palestinians back to peace talks.
Mr. Netanyahu's security cabinet is expected to narrowly approve a three-month Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank, in exchange for US promises of $3 billion in military aid and a commitment not to support any United Nations resolution recognizing Palestinian sovereignty.
Despite threats from Jewish settlers and their backers in the government of an open break with Netanyahu, the prime minister's ruling coalition does not appear to be in danger.
"It is valid that he can pass [the freeze], and without his coalition being destabilized, and if his coalition is destabilized he has other options,'' says Chemi Shalev, a political commentator at the daily Yisrael Hayom. "In the short term he is in a strong position politically.''
'Netanyahu is going to have his way'
The US-Israeli package deal on the peace process was at the center of Netanyahu's seven-hour meeting last week with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and then at Israel's weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.
President Obama congratulated Netanyahu on his willingness to support a freeze, even though Israel said Sunday that the agreement isn't finalized. Netanyahu's decision to go public with the talks, however, suggests that he is on board.
Though Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is expected to vote against the package deal with the US, he isn't expected to pull his ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party – the largest coalition partner -- out of the government over the matter.
Ministers from the religious party Shas, Netanyahu's second-largest coalition partner, are expected to abstain from voting, depriving opponents of a majority to block the move.