US President Barack Obama has requested that Israel extend the West Bank settlement construction moratorium by two months. In return the US "will not ask for a moratorium extension beyond sixty days," according to David Makovsky from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a close associate to Dennis Ross and Obama's Middle East adviser, Army Radio reported Thursday.
"According to senior US officials," wrote Makovsky on Wednesday, the Obama administration's efforts to extend the construction freeze "culminated in a draft letter negotiated with Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak and chief Israeli peace negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, ultimately sent from President Obama's desk to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu."
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Makovsky, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process, explains that, "At its core, the letter offers a string of assurances to Israel in return for a two-month moratorium extension. More specifically, US officials indicate that the document makes commitments on issues ranging from current peace and security matters to future weapons deliveries in the event that peace-related security arrangements are reached."
The letter would commit the US to veto any UN Security Council proposal regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the coming year. In addition, Washington would not object to the request of leaving Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley for a prolonged duration.
"Regarding policy issues," Makovsky writes, "the letter guarantees that Washington will not ask for a moratorium extension beyond sixty days. Rather, the future of settlements is to be settled at the table as part of territorial negotiations."
"Second," Makovsky continued, "the letter promises that the United States will veto any UN Security Council initiative -- Arab or otherwise -- relating to Arab-Israeli peace during the agreed one-year negotiating period."
"Third, Washington pledged to accept the legitimacy of existing Israeli security needs and not seek to redefine them," said Makovsky. "In this context, the letter explicitly mentions the need to ensure a complete ban on the smuggling of rockets, mortars, arms, and related items, as well as the infiltration of terrorists into Israel."
Addressing Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley, Makovsky continued, "the letter offers to help maintain a transitional period for Jordan Valley security that is longer than any other aspect of a negotiated peace -- an apparent allusion to keeping Israeli troops in that region for an extended period of time."
Regarding future weapon deals, Makovsky wrote that "the letter
explicitly discusses the need to enhance Israel's defense capabilities
in the event that the parties reach security arrangements. Even if a
security deal fails to materialize, Washington's offer creates the
baseline for Israel's defense needs in a post-peace era."