Jerusalem: Attempts by Washington to entice Israel into extending a settlement moratorium look set to meet fierce opposition from coalition hardliners, a newspaper poll of cabinet ministers showed on Monday.
Renewing the ban on building new settler homes in the occupied West Bank appears to be key to salvaging peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, who say they will walk out if construction continues.
Findings from the poll published in the Yediot Aharonot daily indicate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will struggle to convince his coalition to back a reported US deal offering security and other guarantees in exchange for a further 60 days of settlement curbs.
Peace talks with the Palestinians, which began a month ago, are facing imminent collapse over Israel`s refusal to renew a freeze which expired on September 26.
A poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, also published yesterday, found that 66 percent of Palestinians want Abbas to pull out of the talks and that just 33 percent support his continuing them.
Washington has been working around the clock to lure Israel into renewing the freeze and thereby convince the Palestinians to stick with the fledgling negotiations.
"We are in the midst of a process of delicate diplomatic contacts with the American administration in an effort to find a solution that will enable the talks to continue," Netanyahu told reporters at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting on Monday. He did not elaborate.
The Washington Institute for Near East policy, a respected US think tank, reported last week that US President Barack Obama had offered "a string of assurances to Israel in return for a two-month moratorium extension”.
The writer, David Makovsky, is head of the institute`s programme on Middle East peace efforts and is considered close to senior White House adviser Dennis Ross, with whom he has co-authored a book on the subject.