The US is busy working on a “compromise proposal” that will allow Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to “come down from the tree” and re-enter direct talks, senior diplomatic officials said Monday.

Although the officials did not provide details of what was being discussed, one source said it entailed Israel renewing the settlement construction moratorium before the US midterm elections on November 2.

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Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman, who met Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday, said there were “very serious efforts on the American and the Israeli side to find the vehicle to go back to direct talks.”

Foxman said his impression was that this vehicle would be found before the US elections.

There have recently been suggestions that in exchange for an extension of the settlement construction moratorium, the US would come out on the record against any Palestinian effort – now being discussed with increasing frequency – to get the US, the UN Security Council or the UN General Assembly to back a unilateral Palestinian declaration of a state along the pre-1967 lines.

So far, Washington, which has been very clear in its call to Israel to extend the settlement construction moratorium, has not been equally clear in opposing this type of unilateral Palestinian move, something that has caused concern in Jerusalem.


Netanyahu, meanwhile, said in a Knesset meeting with the Likud faction that the settlement construction issue was an “artificial obstacle.”

“Even the Palestinians say that the construction is insignificant and barely has an effect on the final-status map. I say it has no impact at all,” he said.

Netanyahu said that he had watched a Channel 1 interview with Abbas on Sunday night, but that “I must say that I prefer to talk to him face-to-face.

This interview took place seven minutes from here. A direct conversation can advance the resolution of the conflict.”

Netanyahu told Likud MKs that if the Palestinians wanted to continue the conflict, “they can find a way. But if they want to solve it, I have ways of doing it. The security problems are real, so the solutions must be real, and not just on paper.”

Netanyahu said that several subjects must be discussed in the negotiations, including the recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, rockets being launched from Gaza, the settlements, Jerusalem and water.

“What matters is not the length of the talks, but whether the Palestinians want to solve the conflict. The Palestinians must decide if they want to solve problems. If there is willingness to solve the dispute, it will be solved, but if not, it won’t be,” he said.

“The Palestinians must compromise with the existence of Israel living in peace with its neighbors. This would be good for us and for them,” he said.

Netanyahu expressed concern that IAF aircraft flying near the Gaza Strip may be exposed to anti-aircraft systems.

“Today we are experiencing difficulty flying near the Gaza Strip since they [Palestinians] have in their possession antiaircraft missiles,” the prime minister said. “Imagine that there are no security arrangements [in an agreement with the PA], and there will be missiles that can take down a plane en route to Ben-Gurion Airport.”

In a related diplomatic development, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, the assistant secretary-general for political affairs at the UN, presented a periodic report to the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East and said “intensive diplomatic efforts led by the United States and supported by all members of the Quartet are ongoing to create conditions conducive to the continuation of the [direct] negotiations.”

But, he said, “These efforts were made even more difficult by the Israeli government’s approval on October 14 of construction tenders for 238 housing units in the settlements of Ramot and Pisgat Ze’ev in east Jerusalem, contrary to international law and running directly counter to the Quartet’s efforts.

“Time is of the essence and we need progress in the coming weeks,” he said.

“The secretary-general continues to believe that, if the door to peace closes, it will be very hard to reopen. There is no alternative to a negotiated settlement resulting in the creation of an independent and viable State of Palestine living side by side with the State of Israel in peace and security.”

Gil Hoffman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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