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(photo credit: AP [file])
The London-based Arabic paper Asharq Alawsat reported Friday that French officials suggested that international overseers would ensure that Israel would implement a moratorium on settlement construction as a prelude to resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The demand that Israel freeze all construction in West Bank settlements is spearheaded by the United States and was articulated by President Barack Obama in several statements, including his outreach speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last month.
European allies of both Israel and the United States, such as Italy, Germany and France, have fallen in line with the US and repeated the demand. Israel has so far resisted the pressure.
According to the report, the international oversight would promote a potential future deal between the sides through trust-building measures, which would show that the international community is committed to the Saudi Peace Initiative.
The initiative, made public in 2002, offers Israel full normalization with the Arab world in return for withdrawal to the 1967 borders and accepting an influx of Palestinian refugees and their descendants into Israel proper. Israel sees the offer as a basis for negotiations but never committed to its details.
The Asharq Alawsat report could not be verified by The Jerusalem Post.
If correct, the French demand would mark a new peak in the concerted international pressure on the issue of settlements.
According to the paper, the French officials assessed that while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu outlined the conditions Israel sees as vital for the establishment of a future Palestinian state in the course of his foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan University several weeks ago, Israel would not be inflexible if the proposed oversight would change conditions on the ground.