PM, Shas leader at odds over status of freeze talks with US

Netanyahu thanks Italians for helping with Ghajar issue; vows to establish regime in Lebanon border town that will not leave vacuum for Hizbullah.

November 23, 2010 05:44
2 minute read.

ghajar 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press [file])

The status of a document spelling out US commitments to Israel in return for a 90-day settlement building moratorium extension remained murky on Monday, with Shas head Eli Yishai saying the talks on the matter had reached a dead-end, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed that the discussions were continuing apace.

“Contacts with the Americans are continuing with the good will of both sides to arrive at written understandings that will make possible bringing them to the security cabinet,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

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Netanyahu was responding to Yishai’s comment to Israel Radio earlier in the day that the sides had reached a “dead-end“ regarding construction in Jerusalem.

“In my mind, there is a dead-end and therefore everything is stuck,” said Yishai, whose party holds what are considered the swing votes on the matter in the security cabinet. “There are demands that Israel cannot, in my mind, give in to, American demands that Israel cannot answer.”

Shas has made building in Jerusalem a central part of its platform for years.

Yishai said that when Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in New York on November 11, there were apparently “unclear understandings.” As a result, he said, for two weeks, the sides have been unable to put together a document.

The US embassy in Tel Aviv, meanwhile, had no comment on the status of the long-awaited document.

In another diplomatic matter, Netanyahu, during a meeting Monday with visiting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, thanked the Italian government for its help in finding a solution to the Ghajar issue. The security cabinet decided last week to withdraw IDF soldiers from the northern part of the town, thereby fulfilling Israel’s obligations under a 1978 UN Security Council resolution to withdraw from Lebanon to the international boundary. That boundary cuts Ghajar into two parts.

“The Italian foreign minister helped in the solution regarding Ghajar,” Netanyahu said.

“We intend to withdraw from the northern part of the town and establish a regime there that will not create a vacuum which would allow Hizbullah to take control. We have still not completed formulating that solution.”

The US and the UN, meanwhile, are looking for a timetable for carrying out the security cabinet’s decision and withdrawing from Ghajar.

Minister without a portfolio Yossi Peled, who has been charged with coordinating implementation of the Ghajar withdrawal, reportedly met and discussed the matter Monday in Jerusalem with Fred Hoff, George Mitchell’s advisor on Lebanon and Syria.

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