Israeli officials: E. J'lem hasn’t delayed freeze document

Officials reject reports that J'lem building may be frozen as part of deal; Erekat: claims PA holding up talks are false.

November 17, 2010 18:44
3 minute read.
Constructing in Jerusalem

building311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Israeli officials Wednesday tried to defuse speculation that a disagreement between Israel and the US over east Jerusalem construction had delayed an anticipated American document detailing the terms of an incentives package in exchange for a 90-day settlement freeze.

All details of that incentives deal, which have been leaked to the media, have stated clearly that such a moratorium would not involve east Jerusalem construction.

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Security cabinet members skeptical over new freeze
'PA opposition delaying written US freeze proposal'

On Wednesday, officials clarified that Israel’s ability to continue Jewish construction in east Jerusalem during that 90-day period would be understood in the document, but not spelled out as such.

Israeli officials said that during last Thursday's meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netnayhu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, where they discussed the 90-day freeze deal, it was understood that east Jerusalem would not be mentioned in the document

The Shas party's expected abstention from the Security Cabinet vote on the deal — a stance which is critical to its passage — is linked to its understanding that the document would clarify that east Jerusalem construction is not included in the settlement freeze.

Israel has continuously explained to the US that east Jerusalem is part of Israel's united capital and that it does not intend to halt construction there, Israeli officials said.

The Palestinians in contrast, have insisted that all Jewish construction must be halted both in West Bank settlements and in east Jerusalem, before they would agree to return to the negotiating table.

Earlier Wednesday, Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Army Radio that the PA will only learn the details regarding the new US freeze proposal during a meeting between the assistant of US Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

"All Israeli claims that Palestinians are torpedoing the [new] understanding between Washington and Jerusalem are just part of the regular Israeli machinations in the blame game," Erekat told Army Radio.

Erekat also said during the interview that the key to peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is in the hands of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

"The Israelis know our position...we will negotiate beginning with borders and security...all other core issues...will be dealt with after 90 days," he stated.

The Palestinian official also called for a two-state solution along 1967 borders.

"I am under your [the Israeli] occupation...we want to reach a two-state solution with 1967 borders...we have recognized your existence," Erekat said.

Erekat's comments contrasted with previous news reports over Palestinian intentions vis a vis negotiations.

The US is looking to Israel to impose a 90-day settlement freeze in hopes of rekindling the stalled talks.

Many in the international community do not distinguish between West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods. US policy has been more ambiguous, but it has still frowned on Jewish construction in east Jerusalem.

The disagreement between Israel and the US with regard to Jewish construction in east Jerusalem is well known, officials said.

Israeli officials said they expected the document detailing the incentives package for the 90-day freeze to state clearly that it would be an extension of the previous moratorium on new settlement construction, which Israel had imposed on the West Bank from November 26 to September 26.

That moratorium did not include east Jerusalem, and as a result east Jerusalem would not be included in the 90-day extension of that freeze, the Israeli officials said.

The nuance of this portion of the agreement is important, the officials said. Netanyahu is therefore waiting to see the language in the US document detailing the incentives package, before he brings it to the Security Cabinet for approval, the Israeli officials said.

It is also expected that the US-penned document would clearly state the Israel was not expected to issue another freeze of settlement construction, the Israeli officials said. Staff contributed to this report.

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