Israel has demanded the US provide written security guarantees before it votes on whether to agree to a “settlement” freeze.
Israel and the US administration were conducting serious talks Tuesday to try and avoid further clashes over disagreements regarding a potential settlement freeze.
The discussions surround a written US pledge that guarantees to persuade Israel to agree to a three-month moratorium on settlement construction.
Israeli representatives were holding serious negotiations with US officials over the text of the letter so that a final version could be presented to the inner cabinet on Wednesday.
Earlier on Tuesday Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Israeli approval of the 90-day settlement freeze was contingent on a written US pledge regarding a package of incentives that would insure Israel’s security and national interests, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.
Freeze opponent Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) told the Post that the US would never put in writing the verbal pledges it made to Netanyahu when he met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York last week.
Such a document “is not on the way, and it is not coming. It is an illusion,” Edelstein said.
Diplomatic sources, however, blamed the Palestinians for the US failure to give Israel a written agreement, claiming that the Palestinians had said a 90- day settlement freeze was not sufficient enough to sway them to conduct direct negotiations with Israel.
Netanyahu has insisted that only when he gets such a document will he bring the freeze to the 15-member security cabinet for approval.
The security cabinet is set to hold its weekly meeting on Wednesday, but at present, the 90-day freeze is not on the agenda.
Based on the agreement between Netanyahu and Clinton, Israel would extend its moratorium on new West Bank settlement construction – but not building in east Jerusalem – for 90 days, with the understanding that the US would not seek to have it renewed further.
During that time, the two sides would begin substantive discussions on the borders of a Palestinian state.
In return, the US would give Israel 20 F-35 joint strike fighter jets, worth $3 billion, as well as a guarantee that for one year, the US would veto Palestinian attempts to seek unilateral statehood from the UN Security Council and that it would block such a measure and other anti-Israeli resolutions in relevant UN bodies.
Middle East expert David Makovsky said the US expected intense discussions on security and borders to go on concurrently during this 90-day period, after talks are renewed.
“I don’t think anyone expects these issues will be resolved in 90 days, but there’s an assumption that by delving into the nitty-gritty of negotiations, progress will be made,” he said. “It’s safe to assume that the US would not have offered all these things without some assurance that there would be progress on security and territory.”
US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley would not confirm any specifics of the US proposal or whether the US was willing to put the proposal in writing.
Crowley merely said, “We’re prepared to do everything that we can to create the positions for both Israelis and Palestinians to have confidence to return to direct negotiations.”
He also declined to address the Israeli assertion that the Palestinians were refusing to return to the negotiating table even with the 90-day extension.
In Ramallah, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians had not yet reacted to the package because it had not been officially presented.
“We don’t know the package. I cannot comment on something I haven’t received yet,” Erekat said.
US diplomat David Hale is in the region this week and expected to meet with Palestinians on Thursday, and likely with Israeli officials as well.
Former Israeli ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval told the Post that security cabinet approval of the freeze was dependent on a quick American delivery of the required document.
At present, Netanyahu has only a narrow margin of support in the security cabinet.
“Every day that the Americans procrastinate decreases the chances that Netanyahu can pass the freeze package,” Shoval said. “It raises doubts among people who are doubtful.”
I’m thinking demanding written guarantees is a wise idea.
Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)
10:08PM: Looks like we vaporized not one, but two, terrorists in the IAF strike earlier today.
The Air Force and the Israel Security Agency [Shin Bet] said they jointly attacked a senior member of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Army of Islam in Gaza on Wednesday in an aerial strike on his vehicle as it drove in the Gaza Strip.
The targeted man, named as senior terrorist Islam Yassin, aged 35, of Jabaliya in Gaza, planned to kidnap Israeli nationals who are vacationing in the Sinai Peninsula, the IDF Spokesman Unit said in a statement.
Yassin’s brother, Muhammad, was also killed in the strike, and four people were lightly injured, Palestinian source in Gaza said.
I love a good Yassineration.
6:00PM: Unleash the Reaper.
At least one Palestinian was killed after his Volkswagen Golf vehicle exploded in central Gaza City Wednesday afternoon, Palestinian sources in the Strip reported.
According to the sources, an Israel aircraft fired at least one missile at the vehicle. Eyewitnesses at the site reported seeing a scorched body inside the vehicle.
At least three people were reportedly wounded in the incident; one of them is said to be in critical condition.
The identity of the casualties was not immediately clear, but sources in Gaza told Ynet that the man killed in the explosion was apparently member of Army of Islam.
4:45PM: Blazing Catfur posts about George Galloway’s visit to York University.
Including this incident:
One young man. whose IDF T-shirt I interviewed, spoke of being told “to go back to Poland” on campus that day. He is of Morrocan descent. He wondered about the reference to Poland as did I. Was it a reference to the death camps? A sincere form of Helen Thomas mimicry?
4:10PM: The infamous Dubai Police Chief has gotten his panties into a bunch over reports that he met an Israeli counterpart.
Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan, who has said Israeli agents assassinated a Hamas commander while in the emirate, on Wednesday denied a press report he met a top Israeli police official in Qatar.
“I categorically deny the report,” Khalfan told AFP.
He was referring to a report in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot that he had met Israel’s police investigations and intelligence branch chief, Major General Yoav Segalovich, at the Interpol general assembly in Doha.
“I did not even attend the Interpol meeting,” Khalfan said.
The Aharonot on Monday quoted an unidentified Israeli police source as saying that “they were introduced, they shook hands and greeted one another,” referring to Khalfan and Segalovich.
The source said the exchange between the two men at the November 8-11 conference was relaxed and there was no apparent tension, despite the disputes between their countries and lack of diplomatic ties.
For his part, Israel’s police spokesman, contacted by AFP, could not immediately confirm or deny the report.
The guy’s such a compulsive liar that I am willing to bet he did meet the Israeli.
1:06PM: PMW brings to our attention the latest example of demonization of Israel at the hands of our “peace partners.”
A PA TV documentary about Palestinian paramedics, intended to show a medic’s typical experiences, includes a scene staged with actors that shows a Palestinian being intentionally targeted by unseen Israeli soldiers, then being shot in the forehead. (Hebrew speech is heard in the background.)
The video indicates the Israeli soldiers’ “intentional” targeting of the young man with a red circle marking his forehead. When he is “hit,” a thick stream of “blood” shoots out from a hole in his head as it would from a water hose or a faucet.
Notice how they don’t just have us killing someone, but specifically a nerdy-looking guy. For increased pathos effect, no doubt.
11:26AM: Meet Israel’s Harry Potter.
You can read more about this in my blog post from almost six years ago.
Now meet Israel’s Voldermort.
11:00AM: “I can’t believe there’s no butter.”
9:38AM: Meet the anti-Israel protesters at a protest led by Jewish Voice for Peace.
You decide whether it is peace that they want.
9:25AM: Photo of the day: One of the dudes from Linkin Park at the Western Wall.