White House declines comment on US incentive reports

Robert Gibbs says US officials worked hard to keep talks on track; US envoy Oren tells 'Washington Post' US came to Israel with number of suggestions that would enable gov't to maybe pass a limited extension.

October 7, 2010 20:58
2 minute read.
Michael Oren

Michael Oren pose 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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The White House on Thursday declined to comment on reports of an American incentive package intended to advance talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that senior US officials had worked all week with the two sides and with Arab states to keep the talks on track.

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Gibbs expressed US hopes that despite disappointment that the construction freeze would not be extended, the talks would continue.

The White House comments came in response to Israel's US envoy Michael Oren's claims that US offered Israel "incentives" geared toward encouraging Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's cabinet to extend the recently expired settlement freeze.

During an interview with The Washington Post published on Wednesday, Oren said that the US "administration has come back to Israel with a number of suggestions - incentives if you would - that would enable the government to maybe pass a limited extension of 2 or 3 months."

"They are talking to the Palestinians as well trying to keep them at the table and talking to the Arab League so that it would give the Palestinians another green light to continue at the table," Oren said, adding that the result, if any, of such attempts will be received "in the next 48 hours."

Oren claimed that the settlement moritorium was a "one-time gesture towards the Palestinians and the US president in order to get everyone back to the negotiating table.

"The Palestinians said they would not begin negotiations unless there was a complete construction freeze in the settlements. In fact, the Palestinians wasted most of the freeze period and only began discussing talks after eight months," he said.

The White House and a State Department official earlier in the week denied the reports that US President Barack Obama had sent Israel a draft letter in which he offered security guarantees – including a continued Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley after the creation of a Palestinian state – if Israel in exchange reinstituted the moratorium on new settlement construction for 60 days.

Oren's comments come as Palestinians accepted the US proposal calling on Israel to extend a West Bank settlement slowdown for another two months, top PA negotiator Nabil Sha'ath said Thursday.

Sha'ath said the Palestinians accept such a limited extension provided the two sides can reach an agreement on the borders between Israel and a future Palestine in those two months.

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