'US will put understandings in writing to renew talks'

US State Dept. spokesman says Washington continuing discussions with Israel on 90-day freeze; willing to give written guarantees to save talks.

pj crowley 311 (photo credit: AP)
pj crowley 311
(photo credit: AP)
The US will give Israel guarantees in writing if it is necessary to renew stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday, according to a Reuters report.
"We continue our discussions with the Israelis. If there is a need to put certain understandings in writing, we will be prepared to do that," Crowley stated at a press briefing.
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Crowley eluded to a document laying out the details of an incentives package and certain guarantees that the US would give Israel in exchange for a 90-day settlement freeze that would be meant to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
Israel has delayed a security cabinet vote on the freeze pending US delivery of written assurances of understandings agreed upon between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this month.
Netanyahu's ministerial majority may hinge on the votes of the two Shas members in the security cabinet, and they have said they will oppose him if the US does not explicitly confirm in writing that building throughout Jerusalem will be permitted during the freeze.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Thursday in Washington, "We are obviously engaged. We are working intensely with both parties."
When asked whether the US discussed, in its conversations with the Palestinians, the possibility that the new freeze might exclude east Jerusalem, Toner said, "We are trying to create the conditions to get them back into direct negotiations." He continued, "We are trying to get them back in, because we know that is the only way all these issues can be eventually resolved."
In Haifa, Netanyahu said, "We maintain intensive contacts with the American administration. Our goal is to formulate understandings through which we can advance the diplomatic process, while maintaining Israel's vital interests, first and foremost of which is defense."
As prime minister, he said, it was his responsibility to guarantee Israel's security and it was with that sole objective in mind that he was evaluating the incentives package with the US.
Fledgling talks between Israelis and Palestinians broke down on September 26, when the 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction expired. The Palestinians have insisted that they will not hold direct talks with Israel until Jewish building has stopped in West Bank settlements and in east Jerusalem.

T. LAZAROFF,  R.A. STOIL AND H. L. KRIEGER contributed to this report