JERUSALEM, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Israel
signaled on Tuesday it
had delayed approving U.S proposals for a freeze on West Bank settlement
building so that peace talks can resume, saying it
wanted the ideas in writing.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been expected
to put Washington's proposals to a cabinet vote this week, but
the plan was delayed after pro-settler coalition partners
protested a proposed 90-day construction freeze.
The Israeli security cabinet convenes a weekly meeting on
Wednesday, and so far, the settlement freeze was not on the
agenda for the coming session, Israeli political sources said.
Israeli officials also said Netanyahu now wanted written
guarantees from Washington before a vote could be held on the
package. Israeli sources said the proposals included an offer of
20 F-35 stealth warplanes worth $3 billion for Israel, and
pledges of enhanced U.S. diplomatic support at the United
Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said on Army Radio that
Netanyahu wanted a letter reflecting these agreements, reached
verbally with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New
York last week.
I hope it will not take too long, but there will be no
point if it is not in writing, Meridor said, adding that the
outcome depends on only one thing, that we get from the
Americans the letter that we agreed that we would get.
Israel had published on Saturday what it called a five-point
plan of understandings reached with Clinton but they have not
been confirmed by Washington.
An Israeli political source accused the Palestinians of
delaying a U.S. written commitment, by objecting to a proposed
exemption of East Jerusalem from a settlement freeze, and being
denied the option of an imposed peace settlement via the United
The Israeli source said the Palestinians also objected to
Washington guaranteeing Israel would not have to negotiate the
borders of a future Palestinian state separately from other key
issues of dispute.
Palestinian officials have thus far declined official
comment on the proposals. Presidential aide Nabil Abu Rdainah
said they had yet to receive details of the final proposal and
had made no formal remarks to the Americans about it.
U.S. President Barack Obama invested substantial political
capital in persuading the Palestinians to resume direct talks
with Israel in early September, after months of mediation.
Negotiations ground to a halt when Netanyahu refused to
extend the 10-month partial construction moratorium on Jewish
settlements in the West Bank after it expired at the end of that
The inducements offered to Netanyahu were seen partly based
on a hope Netanyahu would also tell Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas what size and shape of state he can agree to.
The Palestinians suspect they may be presented with plans
for a shrunken, fragmented territory studded with Israeli
settlements and without East Jerusalem as its capital.
Netanyahu also faces stiff opposition to the U.S. plan from
within his own right-wing Likud party, where many oppose any
halt to settlement building.
I think we are facing a real disagreement, said Benny
Begin, a respected right-wing minister and son of the late
Menachem Begin who made peace with Egypt in 1979.
Zeev Elkin, a promiment lawmaker with Netanyahu's Likud
party, said members would do everything we can to prevent a
decision on a freeze.