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Netanyahu: US Proposal Not Final

November 15, 2010
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The prime minister told the meeting of his meetings with senior American officials in the US last week: “I met with Vice President Joe Biden and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I also spoke with some Congress and Senate leaders, senior members of the US media and senior officials in the US economy. The issue I raised at the forefront of all my meetings was the need to put a stop to the Iranian nuclear program. It is the greatest threat to global peace and of course, to Israel,” he said.

Ahead of the meeting, four ministers from the Likud party, Silvan Shalom, Gilad Erdan, Yuli Edelstein and Moshe Ya'alon, expressed their opposition to the three month renewal of the settlement construction freeze. Ya'alon called the US offer a “honey trap” that would eventually result in another crisis with the US once the three-month freeze expires, or “perhaps even earlier.”

Ynet has learned that the majority of the cabinet ministers support Netanyahu's plan to renew the construction moratorium. Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that he would agree to abstain from a government vote on the renewal of the construction freeze for three months on condition that construction throughout Jerusalem would be resumed immediately.

He also stated that Shas would demand that “a letter be sent from the US president which promises future construction in Ma'ale Adumim, Beitar Illit, Ariel and Kiryat Sefer” when the freeze period comes to an end.

At the Likud party meeting that preceded the government meeting, the opposing ministers claimed that the move isn't right for Israel. Silvan Shalom said that “it isn't just about the three months; it's about a process that will eventually determine our permanent borders.” Minister Edelstein added that: “The freeze was a mistake. We must oppose its renewal and demand unconditional negotiations.”

Meanwhile, Minister for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman said that he supports the US proposal. He said that it must be accepted immediately. “I would renew the freeze not for three months but for six months. To delay negotiations over minor freezes would be the worst thing we could do. We are talking about Israel's future. The prime minister is in [the first Israeli Prime Minister] David Ben Gurion's shoes and he must show true leadership.”

Braverman hinted at the possibility of walking out on the coalition if an additional freeze isn't approved. “I call on the prime minister to go and discuss two central issues. The Labor party will not be able to remain in the government if this issue is not approved.”

The Habayit Hayehudi party, which opposes the freeze renewal, declared that it wouldn't leave the coalition if the freeze were resumed. Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz said, “Essentially, we are opposed to any construction freeze. It's a moral issue, not a political one. This is about families, people, who invested huge sums of money.

“The whole idea of a construction freeze has never been an obstacle, not even now. We need to take the price and remuneration discussions off the table. My party makes every effort to fight for the Land of Israel and maintain a majority against the freeze in the government. At this stage, it isn't yet time to give up. We hope to influence the decision in a significant manner”.

Yisrael Beiteinu also said that they oppose an additional freeze. Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver said: “If you accept a decision to end the construction freeze after 10 months then you must stand behind the decision.”

What does the American package offer in return for 'one final freeze'?

    * US agrees to veto all UN Security Council and international resolutions that are critical of Israel or unilaterally advance Palestinian statehood, and boost efforts to fight against Israeli de-legitimization.

    * Requesting that Congress approve the supply of 20 stealth fighter jets worth US $3 billion.

    * Additional and wider security guarantees when an agreement is reached with the Palestinians.

Yet the agreements with the US are as of this moment, unwritten and merely a verbal agreement. It is possible that the situation which Jerusalem expressed satisfaction with, regarding the commitment to the discussion of permanent borders, will change in talks being run by Netanyahu's representative, Attorney Yitzhak Molcho. A response to the Israeli demand for military presence in the Jordan Valley [eastern edge of the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria] remains unclear as well.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians have expressed their reservations over the proposal—because it doesn't include a construction freeze in east Jerusalem. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat did not reject the proposal outright on Sunday, but said a decision on whether to endorse it would be made after consultations with Palestinian and Arab leaders.

Settlers were also displeased with the US proposal. Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said “it is clear that Netanyahu is a tiger on television but a frightened cat on the ground”.

Posted on November 15, 2010

Source: (By Ronen Medzini, Attila Somfalvi contributed, November 14, 2010)

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