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Israel's Netanyahu unveils U.S. plan for new talks

14 Nov

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a Likud party meeting at parliament in Jerusalem October 25, 2010.

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November 13, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed senior ministers a U.S. plan for resuming peace talks with Palestinians, including a 90-day settlement freeze, a diplomatic source told reporters Saturday.

The plan also includes a pledge not to seek any extension to the settlement freeze after the 90-day period, a vow to veto any attempts at the United Nations to force a unilateral peace deal and an agreement on supplying Israel with more war planes.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, renewed under Washington’s sponsorship on September 2, broke down a few weeks later when Israel balked at renewing a settlement moratorium.

Netanyahu met his top “Forum of Seven” ministers a day after returning from a week-long U.S. tour that included talks on Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at which she unveiled the plan he showed his cabinet, the source said.

Netanyahu hopes he may win approval for the plan from his pro-settler cabinet later this week, political sources said.

Among the pledges offered to Israel by Washington, was a guarantee to veto any resolutions brought to the United Nations Security Council that seek “to impose a political settlement on Israel,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had no immediate comment. Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the Palestinian leader was likely to wait to see whether Israel approved the ideas before issuing any comment.

AN ADDITIONAL FREEZE

Under the plan Israel would “declare an additional suspension of construction” in the West Bank, land it captured from Jordan in a 1967 war, for 90 days. Building begun since a moratorium ended in September, would be halted, the source said.

The proposed construction freeze would not include East Jerusalem, an area Israel has annexed as part of its capital in a move never recognized internationally and which Palestinians want as capital of any future state.

Washington would also undertake to veto resolutions deemed anti-Israel in the U.N. Security Council and other international organizations, the source said, a pledge that could make Israel less vulnerable to threats made by some Palestinians to declare statehood unilaterally in the event that peace talks fail.

The Obama Administration would also ask Congress to approve the supply of $3 billion worth of warplanes to Israel “to maintain its qualitative edge” in the region, the source said.

The United States would further sign a more comprehensive deal to enhance its substantial security aid to Israel as part of any agreement concluded with the Palestinians.

Israeli officials said Netanyahu, who faces a tough political sell within his own coalition on the settlement issue, had pushed Clinton for the broad understandings.

“The chances of reaching a peace agreement will be improved significantly by achieving comprehensive security understandings between Israel and the United States,” Netanyahu said in New York before his talks with Clinton began. (*)

 
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