Israel awaiting written US settlement freeze terms: Official

Israel is awaiting written details of a US package of incentives being offered in exchange for a new ban on Jewish construction in the West Bank.

Updated: Nov 16, 2010, 15:52 PM IST

Jerusalem: Israel is awaiting written
details of a US package of incentives being offered in
exchange for a new ban on Jewish construction in the West
Bank, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday.

"There are understandings between the US secretary of
state (Hillary Clinton) and the prime minister (Benjamin
Netanyahu), but it takes time for them to be put in writing,
and we have to wait," Nir Hefetz, a senior communications
advisor to Netanyahu, told Israeli military radio.

The United States is believed to have offered Israel a
generous package of political and security guarantees in
exchange for a renewed partial freeze on settlement
construction in the West Bank.

Direct peace talks launched by the White House at the
start of September ground to a halt just three weeks later
when a 10-month construction moratorium ended.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has insisted he
will not return to direct talks without a total freeze in
Israeli construction, and the United States has been working
ever since to convince Netanyahu to reinstate the building
ban.

Netanyahu, who met with Clinton for seven hours in the
United States last week, is soon expected to ask the 15
ministers in his security cabinet to approve a new freeze of
around 90 days in exchange for the US incentives.

"No date has been set for the cabinet meeting because
we have to wait for the written clarifications from the
Americans. But the two sides are interested in applying the
agreements they`ve reached, and teams from both sides are
working for that," Hefetz said.

The cabinet secretary, Tzvi Hauser, told Israeli
public radio that the ministers were not expected to meet
today, and were still waiting for the "US clarifications."

But Labour Minister Ehud Barak, who was in France for
what had expected to be a four-day visit, cut his trip short
and was returning to Israel to participate in talks on the US
proposal, the radio said.

Israel`s security cabinet holds a regular meeting on
Wednesday, but can also be convened at any time.

It is divided on whether to approve a new freeze, but
Netanyahu is expected to secure a wafer-thin majority of seven
ministers in favour, six opposed and two from the religious
Shas party expected to abstain.

PTI